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A. WALSH *• 







This short study was written duritjg my tenure of a 
Travelling StudentsHp from the National University of 
Ireland, and in March, 1920, was accepted for the Research 
Degree Certificate of Cambridge University. 

A glance at the bibliography shows that comparatively 
little has been written in English on this interesting period 
of our history. On the other hand modem Scandinavian 
scholars — Alexander Bugge, Marstrander, and Vogt — have 
thrown a good deal of Hght on the subject, but unfortunately 
very few of their books have been translated into English. 
The present dissertation is based principally upon the Old 
and Middle Irish annals and chronicles and the Icelandic 
sagas ; reference has also been made to the work of 
Scandinavian, EngUsh and Irish scholars on the subject. 

I should Hke to acknowledge my debt to Professor 
Chadwick, who directed my work : those who have had the 
privilege of working under him will readily understand how 
much is due to his encouragement and stimulating criticism. 
I wish also to express my thanks to my friends, Miss N. 
Kershaw and Mr. E. J. Thomas, for many kindnesses while 
the book was in preparation ; to Miss Eleanor Hull and 
Professor O'Maille, University College, Galway, for the 
loan of books ; and to the Librarian and staff of Cambridge 
University Library, the National Library, Dublin, and 
T.C.D. Library. 






I. The Vikings in Irei^and (795-1014) 1 

II. Intercourse between the Gaii<i, and the Gaedhil 

DURING the Viking Period 10 

III. The Growth of the Seaport Towns 21 

IV. The Expansion oE Irish Trade 29 

V. ShipbuiIvDing and Seafaring 35 

VI. Linguistic Infi^uences 40 

(a) Loan-words from Old Norse in Irish. 

(b) Gaelic Words in Old Norse Literature. 

(c) Irish Influence on Icelandic Place-nomenclature. 

VII. The Vikings and the Cei^tic Church 47 

VIII. Literary Infi^uence. The Sagas of Icei<and and 

IrEI/And 57 

Bibuography 77 

Scandinavian Relations with Ireland 
during the Viking Period. 



The Vikings made their first appearance ^ ou the Irish 
coasts in 795 a.d., when they plundered and burned the 
church on Recru, or Lambay Island, near Dubhn. During 
the next ten or twelve years Ireland seems to have been 
almost free from further attacks, but in 807 they descended 
on Inis Murray, off the SHgo coast, and from there made 
their way inland to Roscommon.* x^fter that the raids 
ceased for a few years, then began again with renewed 
vigour on Connacht and IMunster, on some of the inland 
counties of I^einster, and on several places along the east 

The arrival of Turgeis* (O.N. Thorgestr) in Armagh, about 
832, marks a new phase of the invasions. Hitherto the 
Vikings had come in isolated parties solely for purposes 

^ Zimmer was of the opinion that the Norsemen made their way 
to Ireland as earl}^ as the seventh century. He bases his theory 
on an entry in the Annals of Ulster and in certain other Irish annals 
(under the year 617) recording " the devastation of Tory Island 
by a marine fleet." {liber die friihesten Be/uhrungen der Iren niit 
den Nordgermanen, p. 279 ff. in Sitzungshevichte der kgJ. prenssischen 
Akademie der Wissenschaften. 1891. Bd. I., pp. 279-317.) But this 
attack is likely to have been due to Saxon or Pictish raiders rather 
than to the Norsemen, 

^Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 807. 

^Annals of Ulster, a.d. 811, 820-824, 827, 830. 

* Some writers would identify Turgeis with Thorgils, son of Harold 
Fairhair, who with his brother Frothi went on a viking expedition 
to Ireland. They captured Dublin, and Thorgils reigned there for 
a long time as king. In the end, however, he was betrayed by the 


of plunder ; nor, however, " great sea-cast floods of 
foreigners " landed in every harbour, and began to form 
settlements in various parts of the island. Dublin was first 
occupied in 836, and four years later the Norsemen 
strengthened their position there considerably by the erection 
of a longphort or fortress. From their longphort at Ivinn 
Duachaill (between Drogheda and Dundalk) built in the 
same year, they made their way to the West and plundered 
Clonmacnois, while settlers from Cael-uisce, near Newry 
went south and laid waste County Kildare.^ 

The power of Turgeis was not confined to the north of 
Ireland. His fleets were stationed on I^och Ree, the centre 
from which Meath and Connacht were devastated. His 
wife, Ota (O.N. Authr), desecrated the monastery of 
Clonmacnois by giving her oracular responses {a frecartha) 
from the high altar.* The tyranny of Turgeis came to an 
end in 845, when he was captured by Maelsechnaill, who 
afterwards became drd-ri, and was drowned in Lough Owel.' 

After his death the tide of battle turned in favour of the 
Irish, and the Norsemen were defeated in several battles. 
Weakened by warfare, they had to contend in 849 with an 
enemy from without — the Dubh-Gaill^ or Danes who had 

Irish and was killed. ( Heimskvingla : Haralds saga hins hdrfagra, 
ch. 35-) 

This account of Tliorgils certainly bears a resemblance to that 
of Turgeis contained in the Irish chronicles and Giraldus 
Cambrensis (cf. Todd : Introduction to War of the Gaedhll with 
the Gain, I., ii.), but it is of course incorrect to say that Turgeis 
was a son of Harold Fairhair. 

^Annals of Ulster, a.d. 841. 

^War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, p. 13. 

^Ib.,v. 15- 

* The Irish chroniclers use a variety of names for the Scandinavians : 
Dihearccai (outlaws), Gaill (foreigners), Gennti (Gentiles), and 
Pagdnaigh (Pagans). They also distinguish between Danes and 
Norsemen. The Danes were known as Danair, Danmarcaigh, Dubh 


sailed round the south coast of England and landed in 
Ireland " to exercise authority over the foreigners who 
were there before them." Two years after their arrival the 
newcomers plundered the fortresses at Dublin and Dundalk, 
but were attacked in the following year on Carhngford 
Loch by the Norsemen. In this great naval battle, which 
lasted three days and three nights, the Danes ^vere finally 
victorious. 1 

" Amhlaoibh Conung, son of the King of Lochlann," 
known in Icelandic sources as Olaf the White, came to 
Ireland about 852 to rule over his countr^^men, and to exact 
tribute from the Irish. ^ According to the Fragments of 
Annals, he left suddenly and returned a few years later 
accompanied by his " younger brother, Imhar," Who may 
be identified with Ivarr Beinlausi {i.e., " the Boneless ") 
son of Ragnarr IvOthbr(5k. Both kings ruled from Dublin, 
which town now gained a new importance as the seat of 
the Scandinavian Kings in Ireland. In 865 the Vikings 
extended their activities to Scotland, whence they carried 
off much plunder and many captives. An expedition on a 
larger scale was made by Olaf and Ivarr in 869, when Dum- 
barton, after a four months' siege, fell into their hands. 
They returned in triumph to Ireland in the follo^^dng year 
with a large number of English, British, and Pictish prisoners 

Gennti (Black Gentiles), and Dubh-Gaill. The vcord Dtcbh-GaiU 
(Black Foreigners) still survives in the personal names Doyle and 
MacDowell and in the place-name Baldoyle. The Norsemen were 
called Finn-Gaill (Fair Foreigners), Finn-Genti, Nortmannai (Lat. 
Northmanni) and Lochlannaigh {i.e., men of Lochlann or Norway). 

'^Annals of Ulster, a.d. 851 (= 852), 

^ Three Fragments of Annals, p. 127. 

Vogt {Dublin som Norsk By, p. 66) suggests that Olaf was related 
to Turgeis, the first Norse King of Ireland, and to Karl Tomrair 
(O.N, Thorarr), " ianist of the King of I,ochlann/' who fell in the 
battle of Scaith Neachtain (847). On the other hand it may be noted 
here that the Annalist errs in making Olaf a brother of Ivarr the 


and ended their victorious march by the capture ot 
Dunseverick (Co. Antrim).^ 

Olaf returned to Norway some time after this to take 
part in the wars there, ^ and we hear no more of him in the 
Irish Annals. " Imhar, King of the Norsemen of all Ireland 
and Biitain," did not long survive him ; his death is recorded 
under the year 873.^ 

During the years which followed Ivarr's death the country 
was comparatively peaceful, and the Irish began to enjoy 
a rest from fresh invasions, which lasted about forty 3^ears.* 
The Danes and the Norsemen again began to quarrel among 
themselves, and once more their opposing fleets met on 
Carlingford Lough ;^ in this battle Albann (O.N. Halfdanr), 
brother of Ivarr, a well-known leader of the Vikings in 
England, was slain. Dissensions also spread among the 
ranks of the Dubhn Norsemen, dividing them into two 
hostile parties, one siding with Sitriucc, son of Ivarr, the 
other with a certain Sighfrith.^ This internal strife so 

'^Annals of Ulster, a.d, 870. 

^Three Fragments of Annals, p. 195. The Landfidmabok, XL, ch. 
15 says that " Olaf fell in battle in Ireland," but this is surely a 

^Annals of Ulster, sub anno, 872 (= 873). 

* Cf. War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, p. 27. Cf. also the entries 
in the Annals of Ulster : 

" Ruaidhri, son of Muirmenn King of the Britons came to 
Ireland, fleeing before the Black Foreigners " (an. 876). 

" The shrine of Colum-Cille and all his relics were brought to 
Ireland to escape the Foreigners " (an. 877). 
■ The War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill (p. 27) mentions another 
battle between Fair and Black Gentiles, in which many of the latter 
were killed. 

• It is extremely difficult to identify these two princes owing to 
the similarity between their names. It has been suggested that 
Sighfrith is the Siefredus or Sievert who ruled jointly with Guthred- 
Cnut (d.c. 894) as King of Northumbria, while Sitriucc son of Ivarr is 
probably the " Sitric comes " whose name appears on a coin dating 
from this period. (See A. Mawer : The Scandinavian Kingdom of 
Northumbria, pp. 11-13. Saga-book of the Vikmg Club, VII. Part I.) 


weakened Norse power that the Irish captured the fortress 
at Dublin in 902, and drove the Vikings across the sea 
with great slaughter. 

The forty years' rest terminated abruptly in 913, when 
several fleets arrived at Waterford and proceeded to ravage 
all Munster and Leinster. In 916 Raghnall (O.N. 
Rognvaldr), grandson of Ivarr, assumed command while 
his brother or cousin, Sihtric Gale (also nicknamed Caoch, 
* the Blind ') came with a fleet to Cenn Fuaid, in the east of 
Ivcinster, and built a fortification there. ^ Both chiefs 
united forces against the drd-ri Niall Glundubh, and having 
defeated him in battle Sihtric entered Dublin and became 
king (918). In the following year the Irish under Niall 
made a brave stand at Kilmashogue, near Dublin, but 
Sihtric won a decisive victory, and Niall and twelve other 
kings were among the slain. 2 

Scandinavian power in Ireland was now at its height. 
Large fleets occupied all the lakes in Ulster, so that no 
part of the surrounding territory was safe from their attacks. * 
The Vikings also retained their grip of the coast towns, and 
successfully withstood the efforts made by the Irish leaders 
to dislodge them. Between the years 920 and 950 the 
importance of Dublin increased considerably through its 
connection with the Scandinavian Kingdom of Northumbria. 
Raghnall, grandson of Ivarr, captured York about 919* and 
reigned there until his death in 921.^ He was succeeded 

'^Annals of Ulster, a.d. 916. 

^Annals of Ulster, a.d, 918. War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, 
p. 37. An entry in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (a.d. 921), referring 
to the result of this battle, runs : — " In this year King Sihtric slew 
his brother Niel." There is, however, no evidence in Irish sources 
that Sihtric and Niall were brothers, or even half-brothers. 

^Annals of Ulster, a.d. 920, 921, 923, 925. 

* Anglo- Sax on Chronicle, A.D. 923. 

'^Annals of Ulster, a.d 920. 



by Sihtric Gale, who had been expelled from DubHn in the 
preceding year/ probably by his brother, Guthfrith. After 
Sihtric's death in 927 Guthfrith, King of Dublin (d. 934), 
with the Vikings of Dundalk, left Ireland in order to secure 
his own succession in York, but he would seem to have 
been driven out by Aethelstan, for the Irish Annals mention 
his return to Dublin after an absence of six months.* 

Guthfrith's son, Olaf, came forward about this time. 
Supported by the Norsemen of Strangford I^ough he 
plundered Armagh, but his subsequent attacks on Ulster 
were checked by Muirchertach MacNeill, son of Niall 
Glundubh. Olaf fought in alliance with Constantine in the 
battle of Brunanburh (937), and after the defeat inflicted 
on them by Aethelstan's forces he fled to DubHn.* He is 
probably the " Anlaf of Ireland " who was chosen King 
by the Northumbrians in 941,* but he died about a year 
later. '^ 

Another Olaf, the famous Olaf Cuaran, also called 
Sihtricsson to distinguish between them, also played an 
important part in campaigns in Ireland and England. He 
went to York about 941, and was elected king by the 
Northumbrians, but was expelled after a few years along 
with Raegenald, son of Guthfrith.^ He then took the DubHn 
Kingdom under his rule, and in the following year was 
defeated in battle by the Irish at Slaine (Co. Meath). lycaving 
his brother Guthfrith to govern in his stead, he departed 
to York, where he became king a second time ; but the 
Northumbrians drove him out after three years and placed 

^Annals of Ulster, a.d. 919. 

2 76., A.D. 927. 

^ lb., A.D. 937. Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. A. Annal, 937. 

* Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, D. Annal 941. 

^ lb., E. Annal 942; Annals of Clonmacnoise, A.D. 934. 

^Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, A. Annal 944. 


" Yric, son of Harald " {i.e., Eric Bloodaxe, late King of 
Norway) on the throne.^ 

Henceforward Olaf limited his activities to Ireland, 
where he reigned, the most famous of the Dublin Kings, 
for some thirty years. In gSo, having summoned auxiliaries 
from the Scottish isles and Man, he prepaied to attack the 
drd-ri, Maelsechnaill II. A fierce battle was fought between 
them at Tara in which the Norse armies were completely 
routed, Olaf's son Raghnall being among the slain. Mael- 
sechnaill followed up this victory by a three days' siege 
of DubHn, after which he carried off a number of hostages 
from the Norsemen, and also obtained from them 2,000 
kine, together with jewels and various other treasures.* 
Olaf himself, utterly disheartened by his defeat, went on 
pilgrimage to lona, where he died soon after. 

Some fifteen 3^ears before, a severe blow had been struck 
at the power of the Limerick Vikings under Ivarr, grandson 
of Ivarr and his sons. The attack made on them at Sulcoit 
(968) by two princes of the Dal Cais, the brothers 
Mathgamain and Brian, resulted in victory for the Irish, 
who took lyimerick shortly after. ^ Mathgamain was 
treacherously murdered in 976, and Brian then became 
King of Thomond. He soon brought the Kingdoms of 
Ossory and Leinster under his control, and by the terms 
of a treaty made in 998 Maelsechnaill consented to leave 
Brian master of Leth Mogha {i.e., the southern half of 
Ireland). The Leinstermen under King Maelmordha, 
dissatisfied with this arrangement, began to make tiouble 
and revolted, assisted by the Dublin Norsemen. An import- 
ant victory was gained over their combined armies at 

^Anglo-Saxon Ch/onicle, E. Annals 949, 952. 

* Annals of the Four Masters, a.d. 978, 979; Annals of Ulster, 
A.D. 979 (= 980). 

^War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, p. 77. 


Gleann Mama (Co. Wicklow) in the year looo by Brian, 
who after the battle captured Dublin. King Sihtric (O.N. 
Sigtryggr), son of Olaf Guar an, had to submit to Brian's 
authority. Having accepted his allegiance Brian married 
Gormflaith, mother of Sihtric and sister of Maelmordha, 
and at the same time gave his own daughter to Sihtric 
in marriage.^ 

Brian became drd-ri in 1002, and after that for about 
twelve years there was peace. Towards the end of that 
time Gormflaith, who had meanwhile separated from her 
husband, incited her brother Maelmordha to make war on 
Brian. Maelmordha and Sihtric began to gather forces for 
the coming struggle. Sihtric at his mother's command 
sought the aid of Sigurthr, Earl of Orkney and of Brodar,* 
a Viking whose fleet then lay off the west coast of Man. 
Fleets also came from Norway^ and Iceland to help their 
kinsmen. The armies under Brian and Maelsechnaill 
marched towards Dublin, and having encamped near 
Kilmainham set fire to the district of Fingal {i.e., Fine Gall, 
" the Foreigners' territory ") north of the city. The two 
armies met at Clontarf on Good Friday morning and the 
battle, one of the most famous ever fought on Irish soil, 
raged all that day. The Norsemen suffered a severe defeat, 
and in attempting to fly for refuge to their ships were 
slaughtered by Maelsechnaill at Dubhgall's Bridge, near 
the Four Courts. Brian himself did not take part in the 
fight, but he was slain in his tent by Brodar after the battle. * 

^ War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill_ p. 115 ; Annals of the Four 
Masters, a.d. 997. 

^Var of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, p. 153. Njdls Saga, ch. 155. 
In the Annals of Loch Ci (A.D. 1014) Brodar is called the earl of 
York {iarla Caoire Eabhroigh). 

^War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, p. 151. 

*/&., pp. 151-191 ; Njdls Saga, chs. 155-157, Annals of Loch 
Qi, AD. 1014 ; Annals of the Four Masters, a.d. 1013. 


After the Battle of Clontarf the Norsemen became 
gradually absorbed in the general population except in a 
few coast towns, where they continued to live more or 
less distinct and governed by petty kings until the English 
Invasion (1169). In the chronicles of the twelfth and 
thirteenth centuries they are generally alluded to as 
"Ostmen" (corruptly Hoiistmanni, Nosmani, etc.),^ and it 
would seem that when Dublin, Limerick, and Waterford 
were captured by the English the " Ostmen " had to with- 
draw to certain districts outside the walls of these towns. 
Thus, near Dublin, north of the River lyiffey, we hear of 
Ostmaneby^ {i.e., Austmannabyr) afterwards called Ostman- 
stonry, and now known as Oxmanstown. Mention is also 
made (c. 1200) of a " ' cantred ' of the Ostmen and holy 
isle," near Limerick and (c. 1282) of a " vill of the Ostmen "^ 
near Waterford.* In the records of the fourteenth century, 
however, there is an almost total absence of references to 
the " Ostmen " in Ireland.^ 

^Calendar of the Ancient Records of Dublin (ed. by J. T. Gilbert), 
II. 81 ; Chartularies of St. Mary's Abbey, Dublin (ed. by Gilbert), I. 
258; II. 251 ; Giraldus Cambrensis : Topographia Hibernica, V. 187. 

The name " Ostmen " is generally supposed to have been first 
given to them by the English, but the word is Norse {i.e., Austnienn, 
plural of Austmathv, " a man living in the East ") and therefore 
must have been current in Ireland before the Enghsh invasion. It 
may be suggested that the name was applied to the original 
Scandinavian settlers in Ireland, to merchants and other later comers 
from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Cf. the moknavae Austmathv , 
given to a certain Eyvindr by the Scandinavian settlers in the 
Hebrides because he had come there from Sweden. 

^Chartulayies of St. Mary's Abbey, I. 267 ; ib., I. 227, 234, etc.; 
Calendar of the Ancient Records of Dublin, I. 55; II. 96. 

^A Calendar of Documents Relating to Ireland (ed. by H. S. 
Sweetman), I. 24. 

*/&., II. p. 426. 

* For interesting articles on the Ostmen in Ireland see A. Bugge : 
Sidste Afsnit af Nordboernes Historic i Irland, pp. 248-315 (Aarb ger 
for nord. Oldk. 1900) ; and E. Curtis : The English and the Ostmen 
tn Inland (English Historical Review, XXIII., p. 209 £f.). 






The existence of the Gaill-Gaedhil or foreign Irish in Ulster 
and various parts of Minister^ during the years 854-856 
shows that even in the early part of the ninth century 
there must have been considerable intercourse between the 
Vikings and the native population. For some of the Gaill- 
Gaedhil were partly of Irish, partly of Norse extraction ; 
others, as the annalist expHcitly states, were Irishmen who 
had been fostered by the Norsemen, and in consequence 
had forsaken Christian practices and lapsed into Paganism.* 
From a chance allusion in a tenth century text^ it 
would seem that they could speak Gaelic, but so badly 
that the expiession " the gicgog of a Gall-Gaedheal " was 
generally understood to mean halting or broken Gaelic. 

They are mentioned in the Annals for the first time* in 
854, in which year Aedh Finnliath, King of Aileach, won 

^Annals of Ulster, A.D. 855, 856; Annals of the Four Masters, 
A.D. 856. 

^Three Fragments of Annals, pp. 128, 129; 138, 139. 

^ Airec Menmam Uraird Maic Coisse, sec. 29 (Marstr^der : 
Bidrag til det Norske Sprogs Historie i Irland, p. 10). 

* With the Gaill-Gaedhil are often identified a body of plunderers, 
members of Meath and Cavan clans, who in the year 845 devastated 
large tracts of territory " after the manner of the Gentiles " ( Annals 
of Ulster, A.D. 845). The Annalists call them " sons of death " {mate 
bdis), pos.sibly a term applied by the monastic chroniclers to a people 
who had abandoned their Christian, and who had profaned 
churclies and religious houses. (Cf. Marstrander, op. cit., p. 7, n.) 


a great victory over them in a battle fought at Glenelly, 
in Tyrone. 1 After this they took an active part in the 
Irish wars, fighting hke mercenaries on different sides — at 
one time in alHance with the drd-ri, Maelsechnaill, who was 
at war with the Norsemen \^ again, with an Irish clan 
against the DubUn Vikings under Ivarr,^ and still later we 
find them joined with the men of Waterford in opposition 
to the drd-ri.'' I^ed by Caittil Find (O.N. Ketill + Ir. find 
— fair) they made their last stand against the DubUn 
Vikings under Olaf and Ivarr, but were defeated with heavy 
losses, and after this there is no further record of their 
activities in Ireland.*' On one occasion at least, they fought 

^ Cf. Annals of the Four Masters, a.d. 854. Three Fragments of 
Annals, a.d. 852, referring to the same event, mention the " fleet 
of the Gaill-Gaedhil." 

^Annals of Ulster, a.d. 855. 

^Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 856. 

^Fragments of Annals, a.d. 858. 

'^ There was also a mixed Norse and Gaelic population in Galloway 
(the word is a corruption of Gall-Gaedhil, Welsh Galwj^'del) as well as 
in the Hebrides (Ir. Innse Gall., i.e., the "Islands of the Foreigners or 
Norsemen ") and other parts of Scotland. There is a reference to 
these Gaill-Gaedhill in t\iQ Four Masters (a.d. 1154) : "The Cinel 
Eoghain and Muirchertach, son of Niall, sent persons over the sea 
to hire the fleets of the Gaill-Gaedhil of Aran, Cantire and the Isle 
of Man and the borders of Scotland in general, over which Mac 

Sgelling was in command " (For other references see 

Marstrander, op. cit., p. 9.) 

By Gaddgethlar the Norsemen understood " the place . . . where 
Scotland and England meet " (cf . Orkneyinga Saga, ch. 28). It is also 
interesting to note that in Norse sources the inhabitants of Galloway 
are called Vikinga-Skotar, a direct translation of Gaill-Gaedhil. 

O'Flaherty {Ogygia, p. 360) thought that the Gaill-Gaedhil 
mentioned in the Annals of the mid-ninth century came to Ireland 
from Scotland, but the ancient Three Fragments of Annals, which 
contain the fullest accounts of the Gaill-Gaedhil (pp. 138-141) speak 
of them as Scuit {i.e., an Irish form of the Latin Scoti, a word which 
is always used with reference to the Irish before the tenth century). 
Moreover, the impression received from reading the Fragments of 
Annals is that the Annalist had in his mind the Norse-Gaelic 
population of Ireland, not of Scotlanc^. 


with the Viking armies in England. According to the account 
of the siege of Chester (c. 912) preserved in the Three 
Fragments of Annals, many Irishmen, foster-children of 
the Norsemen, formed part of the besieging army under the 
chieftain Hingamund,i who had been expelled from DubUn 
some time previously. To these Irishmen Aethelflaed, the 
lady of the Mercians, sent ambassadors appeaUng to them 
as " true and faithful friends " to abandon the " hostile 
race of Pagans " and to assist the Saxons in defending the 
city. The Irish then deserted their former alhes and joined 
the Saxons, " and the reason they acted so towards the 
Danes," adds the chronicler, " was because they were less 
friendly with them than with the Norsemen." 2 

The Vikings who formed settlements in Ireland during 
the reign of Turgeis (839-845) seem to have mingled freely 
with the Irish, for we find them not long after their arrival 
stirring up the clans to rebellion against the drd-ri^ and 
joining the native princes on plundering expeditions. The 
annals mention several such alliances. Cinaedh, Prince of 
Cranachta-Breagh, who had revolted against Maelsechnaill 
with a party of plunderers, laid waste the country from the 
Shannon eastward to the sea.* Another Irish prince, Lorcan, 
Eling of Meath, accompanied Olaf and Ivarr when they 
broke into the famous burial-mounds^ at New Grange, 
Knowth and Dowth, on the Boyne, and carried ofi the 

^ Ann. Camhriae, a.d. 902; (Steenstrup : Normannerne, III., pp. 


^ Three Fragments of Annals, p. 230 fi. 

* Annals of the Four Masters, a.d. 845, 852; Annals of Ulster, 
A.D. 846. Three Fragments of Annals, a.d. 862. 

^Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 848. 

» The plundering of these burial-mounds — " a thing that had never 
been done before " — made a deep impression en the Irish Annalists ; 
it was thought that the Vikings discovered the existence of the 
treasure b}' magic, " through paganism and idol worship " {War of 
the Gaedhil with the Gaill, p. 115). The same source (p. 25) records 


treasures which they found there. After the great naval 
battle between Danes and Norsemen in Carlingford Lough 
(a.d. 852) Danes and Irish frequently united forces against 
the common enemy, and on one occasion — after the two 
armies had won a victory over the Norsemen in Tipperary 
— the Danish chieftain Horm and his men were escorted 
in triumph to Tara where they were received with great 
honour by the drd-ri^ Even after the arrival of Olaf the 
White, who brought about a temporary reconciHation 
between the two parties of " Foreigners," a detachment 
of Danes remained on in the service of Cearbhall, King 
of Ossory.2 

The Irish chronicler, in alluding to the Norse practice 
of billeting their soldiers in the Irish farmhouses, lays stress 
on the feelings of hostiUty entertained by the Irish towards 
this " wrathful, foreign, purely Pagan people." Yet, we 
not infrequently find instances of friendly intercourse, as 
in the well-known story of Olaf-Trygvason and the peasant.' 
It appears that after Olaf's marriage to Gyda, sister of 
Olaf Cuaran, he occasionally visited Ireland. Once he sailed 
there with a large naval force, and being short of provisions 
went on land with his men on a foraging expedition. They 

the plundering of Kerry by Baraid (O.N. Barthr) and Olaf the White's 
son " who left not a cave there underground that they did not explore." 
Several references to this practice of the Vikings occur also in 
Icelandic literature. It is interesting to compare the Irish accounts 
with the following passage from Landnamabok (I., ch. 5) : " Leifr 
(one of the earliest settlers in Iceland) went on a Viking raid to the 
West. He plundered Ireland and found there a large underground 
house (Icel. jarth-hus). It was dark within until he made his way 
to a place where he saw a light shining from a sword which a man 
held in his hand. Leifr slew the man ana took the sword and much 
treasure besides." 

"^ Three Fragments of Annals, p. 135. 

2/&., p. 137. 

^ Hiimskringla : dldfs Saga Tryggvasonar, ch. 35. 


seized a large number of cows, and were driving them towards 
the shore when a peasant ran after them and begged Olaf 
to give him back his cows. Olaf told him to take them, if 
he could separate them from the rest without delaying 
their journey. The peasant had with him a large sheep- 
dog, which he sent in among the herd, and the dog ran up 
and down and drove off as many cows as the peasant 
claimed. As they were all marked in the same way it was 
evident that the dog knew all his master's cows. Then Olaf 
asked if the peasant would give him the dog. " WilHngly," 
was the reply. So Olaf gave him in return a gold ring, and 
assured him of his friendship. The dog was called Vigi, 
" the best of all dogs," and Olaf had it for a long time. 
Years later, after the great naval battle in which Olaf lost 
his life, " Vigi lay on a mound and would take no food 
from anyone, although he drove away other dogs and beasts 
and birds from what was brought to him. . . . Thus he 
lay till he died."i 

Moreover, the evidence of both Norse and Irish sources 
goes to show that all through the ninth and tenth centuries 
there was extensive intermarriage between the two peoples. 
Marriages of the invaders with the women whom they 
had carried off as captives must have taken place from an 
early period,* and we know definitely that the kings and 
chieftains on both sides frequently strengthened their 
alliances by unions between members of the royal families. 
According to the Landndmabdk many distinguished Ice- 
landers traced their descent to Kjarval, i.e., Cearbhall, 

1 Cf. The story of Samr, {i.e., probably Jr. sam, " happy " or 
" peaceful ") the Irish hound which Olaf Pai gave to Gunnarr. 
Samr was killed while defending his master's homestead. {Njdls 
Saga, chs. 69, 75.) 

* Annals of the Four Masters, a.d. 820; Fragments of Annals, 
p. 166 ; War of the Gaedhil with the Caill, p. 79 ; The Victorious 
Career of Callachan of Cashel, p. 9. 


King of Ossory (d. 887), an ally of Olaf and Ivarr. His 
grandson, Dufthak (Ir. Dubhthach)* was the founder of an 
Icelandic family, and three of his daughters, Kormloth (Ir. 
Gormflaith),2 Frithgerth^ and Rafarta* married Norsemen. 
The Landndmahdk speaks of Kjarval as having been King 
of Dublin while " Alfred the Great ruled in England . . . 
and Harold Fairhair in Norway,"^ a statement which is 
often doubted because unsupported by the evidence of the 
Irish historians ; but it is not at all unHkely, since Cearbhall 
was remotely connected with the DubHn royal house through 
his granddaughter Thurithr, who married Thorsteinn the 
Red, son of Olaf the White. « 

There is no mention of Authr, Olaf's Norse wife, in the 
Annals, but we hear incidentally' that Olaf, while in Ireland, 
married a daughter of Aedh FinnHath, King of Aileach. 
After he became drd-ri (864) Aedh turned against the 
Norsemen, and having plundered all their fortresses in 
the north of Ireland marched towards Lough Foyle, where 
they had assembled to give him battle. Aedh was victorious, 
and some years after he again defeated the Foreigners, 
who were at this time in alhance with his nephew Flann : 
Flann himself and Carlus, son of Olaf the White being 

^Landndmahdk, V., ch. 8. 

2/6., v., ch. 13. 

3/&., III., ch. 9. 

* Ih., III., ch. 12. Rafarta was the wife of Eyvindr the Easterner, 
" who settled down in Ireland and had charge of Kjarval's defences " 
{ci. Grettis Saga, ch. 3). Ovkneyinga Saga (ch. 11.) makes Edna 
(Ir. Eithne) another of Kjarval's daughters to be the mother of 
Sigurthr, Earl of Orkney (killed in the battle of Clontarf, 1014) ; 
but owing to the chronological difficulty this is hardly likely. 

^Landndmahdk, I., ch. i. 
6/6.. II., ch. 15. 

"^ Three Fragments of Annals, p. 151. The same source (p. 173) 
mentions still another wife of Olaf, " the daughter of Cinaedh," 
i.e., in all probability Cinaedh Mac Ailpin, King of the Picts (d. 858). 


numbered among the slain. We also hear of other Irish 
Kings who were closely related to their Viking opponents. 
Laxdaela Saga contains an interesting account of a slave- 
woman who was bought at a market in Norway by an 
Icelander called Hoskuldr. The woman was dumb, but 
Hoskuldr was so struck by her appearance that he willingly 
paid for her three times the price of an ordinary slave, 
and took her back with him to Iceland. A few years later, 
happening to overhear her talking to their Httle son, Olaf 
Pdi, he discovered to his amazement that her dumbness 
was feigned. She then confessed that her name was 
Melkorka (Ir. Mael-Curcaigh) and that she was the daughter 
of Myr Kjartan, a king in Ireland, whence she had been 
carried off as a prisoner of war when only fifteen years old. 

When Olaf was grown up his mother urged him to visit 
Ireland in order to estabHsh his relationship with King 
Myr Kjartan, " for," she said, " I cannot bear your being 
called the sou of a slave-woman any longer." Before they 
parted she gave him a large finger-ring and said : " This 
my father gave me for a teething-gift, and I know he will 
recognise it when he sees it." She also put into his hands 
a knife and belt and bade him give them to her nurse : " I 
am sure she will not doubt these tokens." And still further 
Melkorka spoke : " I have fitted 3^ou out from home as 
best I know how, and taught you to speak Irish, so that it 
will make no difference to you where you are brought to 
shore in Ireland. . . ."^ 

The saga goes on to describe the voyage to Ireland, the 
landing there, and Olaf's reception by King Myr Kjartan. 

Myr Kjartan may be identified with Muirchertach " of 
the Leather Cloaks," King of Aileach, who Hke his father 
Niall Glundubh distinguished himself by his spirited 

^Laxdaela Saga (translated by M.A.C. Press), chs. 12, 13, 20, 21. 


resistance to Norse rule in the first half of the tenth century.* 
Donnflaith, another of his daughters and mother of the 
drd-ri, Maelsechnaill II., mairied Olaf Cuaran. Their son, 
Gluniarainn, reigned in Dublin after his father's retirement 
to lona, and appears to have been on friendly terms with 
Maelsechnaill. * The relationship between these two families 
becomes more complicated owing to the fact that 
Maelsechnaill's own wife, Maelmuire (d. 102 1), was a 
daughter of Olaf.^ 

But perhaps no figure stands out so prominently in the 
Irish and Norse chronicles* of the second half of the tenth 
century as Gormflaith (O.N. Kormloth) who first married 
Olaf Cuaran, then his enemy Maelsechnaill II., and finally 
Brian Borumha, from whom she also separated. 

The interchange of family and personal names which took 
place to such an extent during the Viking period also points 
to the close connection between the foreigners and the 
Irish. As early as 835 mention is made of one Gofraidh 
(O.N. Guthrothr), son of Fergus, who went to Scotland from 
Ireland in order to strengthen the Dal Riada and died some 
time after as King of the Hebrides.'* The Dublin Viking 
who led an attack on Armagh in 895 had an Irish name, 
Glun-iarainn, obviously a translation of O.N. Jarn-kni. 
He was in all probability a relative of lercne or Jargna 
(corrupt forms of Jarn-kne) who ruled in conjunction with 

^ The Annals of the Four Masters record his death under the year 
941 : " Muirchertach of the Leather Cloaks, lord of Aileach, the 
Hector of the West of Europe in his time, was slain at Ardee by 
Blacaire, son of Godfrey, lord of the Foreigners." 

Muirchertach's grandson was killed by Olaf Cuaran. ( lb., A.D. 975). 

2ife., A.D. 981. 

^ lb., A.D. I02I. 

*War of the Gaedhii with the Gaill, p. 142 ff. ; Njdls Saga, chs. 
153. 154- 
^ Annais 0^ the Four Masters, ad. 851. 


Zain or §tain (O.N. Steinn) as King of Dublin (c. 850) ;* 
while other earls of DubHn, Otir mac Eirgni,* Eloir mac 
Brgni or Largni^ and Gluntradna, son of Glun-Iarainn 
would also appear to have been of the same royal family.* 
Irish names occur more frequently in Norse families during 
the tenth and eleventh centuries ; we find Uathmaran, son 
of Earl Bairith (O.N. Barthr) ; Camman,^ son of Olaf 
Godfreyson ; GioUa Padraig, Dubhcenn^ and Donndubhan, 
sons of King Ivarr of Limerick ;' Niall, son of Erulb (O.N. 
Herjulfr) ; Cuallaidh, son of King Ivarr of Waterford ; 
Eachmarach, and very many others.® On the other hand, 
we may note the prevalence of such common Norse names 
as Ivarr, Guthrothr, Sumariithi among the Irish, espedally 
in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Several of these 
names still survive, as, for instance, MacAuliffe (O.N. 
Olafr) ; MacCaffrey (O.N. Guthothr) ; MacCalmont or 

'^Three Fragments of Annals, pp. 119, 123. Annals of Ulster, 
A.D. 852. 

^Chronicon Scotorum, a.d. 883. 

3 /&., 886 ; Annals of Ulster, a.d. 885. 

* See A. Bugge : Nor disk Sprog og Nor disk Nationalitet, i Irland, 
pp. 284, 285. Profe.:>sor Marstrander {op. cit., pp. 45, 46) takes 
Gluntradna to be an Irish adaptation of an O.N. nickname Tronu- Kne, 
to which he compares Tronuheina, the daughter of Thraell, in the 
Rigsthitla, 9. 

^ Cf . the name Grimr Kamban [Landndmahok , Hauksbok MS., 
ch. 19) which seems to be a Norse form of the Irish Camman. 

* According to A. Bugge, Duhhcenn is a translation of the O.N. 
Svarthofthi, but Marstrander [op. cit., p. 45) holds that the name was 
known in Ireland before the Viking age. It may be suggested that it 
was a nickname given to Ivarr's son by the Irish. Cf. Olaf Guar an 
(Ir. cuaran, a shoe made of skin) ; Olaf Genncairech [i.e., " Scabby- 

' Their mother was an Irishwoman, sister of Donnabhan, King of 
Ui Fidgenti. Donnabhan himself was married to a daughter of 
Ivarr, King of I^imerick. [War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, p. 207). 

* Annals of the Four Masters, a.d. 931 ; Annals of Ulster, a.d. 960, 
1036, 1042, etc. See also Whitley Stokes : On the Gaelic Names in the 
Landndmabdk (Revue Celtigue, III., pp. 186- 191). 


Lamont (O.N. I^gmathr) ; Kettle (O.N. Ketill) ; Kitterick 
(? Ir. Mac+N. Sigtryggr) ; MacKeever (O.N. Ivarr) ; 
Manus and MacManus (O.N. Magnus) ; Quistan (Ir. Mac. + 
O.N. Eysteinn) ; Reynolds (O.N. Rognvaldr) ; Sigerson 
(O.N. Sigurtbr) and MacSorley (O.N. Sumarlithi). 

Both Gain and Gaedhil, so dissimilar in many ways, 
benefited by their intercourse with one another. In Ireland 
the Vikings played an important part in the development 
of trade ; they also promoted the growth of town Ufe. We 
may trace the beginnings of the seaport towns, DubHn, 
Limerick, Waterford and Wexford, to the forts built by 
them near the large harbours in the ninth and tenth 
centuries. In DubUn coins were minted for the first time 
in Ireland^ during the reign of Sihtric Silken Beard (c. 
989-1042). Moreover, the large number of loan-words from 
Old Norse which made their way into Irish shows that the 
Irish learned in many other ways from the invaders, notably 
in shipbuilding and navigation. 

So far as literature and art are concerned, the period of 
the Viking occupation is one of the most interesting in the 
history of Ireland. In spite of the destruction of the 
monasteries and the departure of numbers of the monks ^ 

1 From the contemporary Irish poems the Book of Rights and The 
Curcuit of Muirchertach Mac Neill it may be inferred that in ancient 
Ireland all payments were made in kind. With the extension of 
trade, however, it is probable that many Anglo-Saxon and other 
foreign coins — including those of the Scandinavian Kings of North- 
umbria, several of whom also reigned in Ireland — came to be circulated 
in Ireland. The Vikings in England struck coins there during the 
reign of Halfdanr (d. 877). (Cf. C. F. Keary : Catalogue of Coins in 
the British Museum, I., p. 202). 

* One of these fugitives wrote the following lines on the margin 
of Priscian's Latin Grammar in the monastery of St. Gall, Switzerland: 

" Is acher ingaith innocht fufuasna fairge findfolt. 
Ni agor reimm mora minn dond laechraid lainn na lothlind." 
{Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus. Ed. Stokes and Stracban, II., 290.) 


to the Continent the work of the great schools was carried 
on and there was considerable Hterary activity ;^ in 914 
and 924, respectively, the great crosses at Clonmacnois 
and Monasterboice were set up ; cumhdachs, or book-shrines 
of plated gold and silver, were made for the three great 
manuscripts, the Book of Kells, the Book of Durrow and the 
Book of Armagh ; carved gold, silver, and bronze work 
reached a high level of excellence in the famous Ardagh 
Chalice and the Tara Brooch ; and during the years which in- 
tervened between the battles of Gleann Mama and Clontarf , 
Romanesque architecture was introduced into Ireland. 
Irish art did not remain wholly free from Scandinavian 
influence. In the Cross of Cong (a.d. 1123) the Celtic inter- 
laced patterns are found side by side with the " worm- 
dragon " ornament, while the crosier of Clonmacnois, the 
psalter of Ricemarsh and the shrine of St. Patrick's Bell 
are decorated in the style known as " Hibemo-Danish."* 
The Vikings, on the other hand, came under the influences 
of Irish art and hterature. We find marks of Celtic influence 
not only in the sculptured crosses erected by the Norsemen 
in the North of England and Man, but even in Scandinavia 
itself.^ Moreover, there are strong reasons for supposing 
that the rise of the prose saga among the Icelanders may 
be the outcome of their intercourse with the Irish in the 
ninth and tenth centuries. 

t.e., Bitter is the wind to-night, 

It tosses the ocean's white hair ; 
To-night I fear not the fierce warriors of Norway 
Coursing on the Irish Sea. 
(Translation by Kuno Meyer : Ancient Irish Poetry, p. loi.) 

* See Margaret Stokes : Early ChrUtian Architecture in Ireland, 
p. 127. 

2 G. Coffey: A Guide to the Celtic Antiquities of the Christian 
Period (National Museum, Dublin) pp. 29, 49 and 62. 

^ lb., p. 17. 



The foundation of the seaport towns was the most important, 
and at the same time the most permanent effect of the 
Viking invasion of Ireland. Before this the only towns 
were the larger monastic centres^ at Armagh, Clonmacnois, 
Durrow and Clonfert, which, besides the monastery itself, 
consisted of numerous beehive-shaped houses of stone, or 
small huts of clay and wattles built for the accommodation 
of the students attending the schools. During the first 
half of the ninth century these monasteries suffered sorely 
from the attacks of Viking raiders. After a stubborn 
resistance on the part of the Irish, Armagh fell into the hands 
of Turgeis, who drove out the abbot Farannan and " usurped 
the abbacy " (c. a.d. 839). Some years later Armagh was 
abandoned when the Vikings captured DubHn, at this time 
a small " town by the hurdle ford,"^ but they were quick 
to reaHse its possibiHties as the seat of their monarchy and 
the chief centre of their trade. As a result of the struggle 
for ecclesiastical supremacy, which took place at a later 
period 3 between Armagh and DubHn, the Bishops of Dubhn 
were obliged to acknowledge the Primate of Armagh ; 

^ In the Annais of Tighernach (a.d. 716), the Annals of Ulster 
(A.D. 715), and the Book of Hymns (ed. Todd, p. 156) the Latin 
civitas (Li. Cathair) is the word used for a monastery. 

* The old name for Dublin was Baile-atha-Cliath, "the town of 
the hurdle ford." It was afterwards called Dubh-linn (" black pool "), 
of which the O.N. Dyflin is a corruption, 

8 See p. 55. 



but the latter town never recovered its former prestige as 
the capital of Ireland.^ 

That Dublin owes its importance, if not its origin, to the 
Norsemen may be inferred from the almost total silence of 
the historians and annalists regarding it in the years preced- 
ing the Scandinavian inroads. It is probable that there 
was a fort to guard the hurdle-ford where the great road 
from Tara to Wicklow, Arklow and Wexford crossed the 
lyiffey, but it seems to have played no great part in history 
before the Norsemen fortified it in 840. Between Church 
Lane and Suffolk Street they had their Things or meeting- 
place, which was still to be seen in the seventeenth century ; 
while all along College Green, called Le Hogges'' and later 
Hoggen Green by the EngHsh, lay their barrows (O.N. 
haugar). During the ninth and tenth centuries the Kingdom 
of DubHn — known to the Scandinavians as Dyflinarski — 
became one of the most powerful in the west. Its sway 
extended north to its colonies* at the Strangford and 

^ Armagh is the only place in Ireland which is marked on a tenth 
century map of the world preserved in the British Museum. See 
R. A. S. Macalister : Muiredach : Abbot of Monasterboice, 
P- 13- 

* It is called Tengmonth and Teggemiita in medieval documents 
{Chartularies of St. Mary's Abbey, I., 15, 461, 463, 465) and from 
it the surrounding parish of St. Andrew — " Parochia Sancti Andreae 
de Thengmote " — took its name. In 1647 it is referred to as ' the 
fortified hill near the College," but about thirty years later it was 
levelled to the ground and the earth was used for building Nassau 
Street (J. T. Gilbert • History of Dublin, II , p. 258). 

3 The name survived until the 1 8th century in Hog Hill, but it 
was afterwards changed to St. Andrew's Street. 

*■ Annals of Ulster, a.d. 839, 840, 925, 928, 934. 

These colonies were governed by earls, not kings, and their 
dependency on the kingdom of Dublin is clearly shown by certain 
entries in the Annals. In 926 a Viking fleet at Linn Duachaill (on 
the coast of Louth) was commanded by Albdarn (O.N. Halfdanr), 
son of Guthfrith (King of Dublin, 920-933). Later, when part of 
Albdann's army was besieged at Atk Cruithne (near Newry), 


Carlingford Loughs, west to Leixlip, south to Wicklow, 
Wexford 1 and even as far as Waterford. The Dublin kings 
intermarried with royal families in Ireland, England and 
Scotland, and between the years 919 and 950 ruled, though 
in somewhat broken succession, as Kings of York. 

lyimerick (O.N. Hlymrek)2, the great stronghold on the 
west coast, had no existence as a city before the ninth 
century. It was first occupied during the reign of Turgeis 
by Vikings, who used the harbour as a base for their ships. ^ 
The only chieftains mentioned in connection with this 
kingdom during the ninth century are Hona and Tomrir 
Torra (O.N. Th6rarr Thorri), who were slain about the 
year 860 in attempting to capture Waterford.* A few years 
later Barith (O.N. Barthr) and Haimar (O.N. Heimarr) 
when marching through Connacht on their way to Limerick, 
were attacked by the Connachtmen and forced to retreat.* 
The real importance of Limerick, however, dates from the 
early part of the tenth century when it was colonised by 
Vikings under Tomar (Th6rir) son of Elgi (O.N. Helgi). 
To secure the fort against attack an earthen mound was 
built all round, and gates were placed at certain distances 

Guthfrith went with his forces to relieve it. In 927 the " foreigners 
of Linn Duachaill " accompanied Guthfrith when he marched on 
York. See Steenstrup, op. cit., III., p. 115. 

^Wexford was also governed by earls. One of them, Accolb, is 
mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 928. 

2 The Irish name Luimnech (hence O.N. Hlymrek) was originally 
applied to the estuary of the Shannon, but was afterwards confined 
to the town itself when it had risen to importance under Scandinavian 

^Annals of the Four Masters, a.d. 843 ; War of the Gaedhil with 
the Gain, p. 8. 

*Three Fragments of Annals, pp. 167, 144-6. War of the Gaedhil 
with the Gain, ch. 23. 

^Three Fragments of Annals, pp. 173-175; Chronicon Scoforton, 
A.D. 887. 


leading into the streets and the houses.* As a kingdom it 
was independent, having subject colonies at Cashel, Thurles, 
lyough Ree and Lough Corrib.'* It bad no connection with 
Dublin during the tenth century ; in fact, there is evidence 
to show that both royal houses were bitterly hostile towards 
each another. On one occasion Guthfiith, King of DubHn, 
led an army to Limerick, but was repulsed with heavy losses 
b3^ the Vikings there. ^ A few years later (a.d. 929) he 
expelled Tomar's successor, King Ivarr of Linierick, and his 
followers from Magh Roighne (a plain in Ossory), where 
they had encamped for a whole year. Olaf Godfreyson 
was equally active. After defeating Olaf Cenncairech and 
the Limerick Vikings at Lough Ree in 937, he carried them 
off to Dublin,* and that same year probably forced them 
to fight on his side in the battle of Brunnanburh. 

This hostiUty would seem to have been due to rivalry 
between two powerful kingdoms, rather than, as has been 
suggested,^ to difference of nationality. It is not at all 
certain that the Limerick Vikings were purely Danes. 
One Irish chronicler speaks of the Scandinavians in Munster 
as Gain and Danair and calls their fleets loingeas 
Danmarcach ocus allmurach (" fleets of Danes and 
foreigners ").® Elsewhere^ we find the word Lochlannaigh 
[i.e., Norsemen) used with reference to the Limerick settlers ; 

^ The Victorious Career of Cellachan of Cashel, pp. 9, 66 ; War oj 
the Gaedhil with the Gaill, p. 56. 

^Annals of Ulster, A.D. 845, 922, 929; The Victorious Career of 
Cellachan of Cashed, p. 10 ; War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, p. 10 ; 
Thr&e Fragments of Annals, p. 197. 

^Annals of Ulster, a.d. 924. 

^Annals of the Four Masters, a.d. 935; Chronicon Scototum, a.d. 

* A. Bugge : Sidste Afsnit af Nordhoernes Historic i Irland, pp- 
254. 255. 

^War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, p. 41. 

''The Victorious Career of Cehachan of Cashed, p. 64. 


and Colla (O.N. Kolli). Prince of Limerick (d. 931) was 
certainly a Norseman, for he was son of Barthr, a leader 
of the Finn-Gennti in the ninth century. There would seem 
to have been a mixture of both Danes and Norsemen in 
Limerick, and since there is no proof that struggles for 
mastery took place between them, we may take it that they 
acted in harmony. 

I^During the tenth century Limerick stood in close 
connection with the Scandinavian Kingdom in the Hebrides. ^ 
Mention is made of one chieftain " Morann, son of the 
Sea King of Lewis," ^ who fought and fell in Limerick 
against the Irish. Moreover, the occurrence of the names 
Manus, Maccus (O.N. Magnus) and SomarHdh (O.N. 
SumarHthi) in both royal famihes points at least to re- 
lationship by mairiage. Indeed, the same family seems to 
have reigned in both kingdoms. " Godfrey, ^on of Harold, 
King of the Hebrides," who was slain by the Dal Riada 
in 989^ was in all probabiHty a son of that " Harold, lord 
of the foreigners of Limerick," whose death is recorded by 
the Four Masters in 940. 

^^Practically nothing is known of the Scandinavian settle- 
ment in Waterford* (O.N. Vethraf^jorthr) before the year 
919, when Vikings under Raghnall (O.N. Rognvaldr), 
" King of the Danes," concentrated their forces there 
before attacking DubUn. These invaders, sometimes 
called Nortmannai (' Norsemen '), but generally alluded 

^ Steeustrup : op. cit., III., p. 213. 

2 The Victorious Career of Cellachan of Cashel, p. 65. 

^Annals of Ulster, a.d. 988. 

^Three Fragments of Annals (a.d. 860) record that " two fleets 
of the Norsemen came into the land of Cearbhall, son of Dunlaing 
(King of Ossory) to plunder it." These fleets probably sailed up the 
Barrow from Waterford harbour. The same annals also mention 
(p. 129) a Norse chieftain called Rodolbh, who may have been 
connected with the colony at Waterford. See also Annals of the Four 
Masters, a.d. 888 [891]. 


to as Gain (' foreigners ') must have also included Danes, 
as Raghnall's army was composed of both Danes and 
Norsemen ;i and moreover, both parties are represented as 
fighting side by side against the Irish in Waterford.^ 

Waterford had not at first a dynasty of its own, but was 
dependent on the Dublin Kingdom. Olaf Godfreyson seems 
to have been in command there while his father was King 
of Dublin ;3 and we hear also that when the town was 
attacked by the Irish under Cellachan of Cashel, Sihtric, 
a prince from Dublin, came with a fleet to relieve it.* Later 
in the same century, the kingdom of Waterford stood quite 
distinct, and was governed by Ivarr (d. looo), who was 
probably a member of the Dublin royal family. He came 
forward as a claimant to the Dublin throne after the murder 
of Gluniarainn, son of Olaf Cuaran (989) but was driven 
out after a three years' reign by Sihtric Silken-Beard. 
Ivarr's successors in Waterford, Amond (O.N. Amundr) 
and Goistilin Gall were killed in the battle of Clontarf. 

In the tenth and eleventh centuries Waterford was 
strongly fortified, and, like Limerick, had gates leading 
into the town.^ The town itself was built in the form of 
a triangle with a tower at each angle,® only one of which, 
the famous Reginald's Tower, built in 1003, is still standing. 
Gualtier (? Ir. Gall Hr, ' land of the foreigners '), a barony 
lying on the west side of the harbour, is supposed to have 
been connected with the ' Ostmen,' who were obliged to 
settle there after the arrival of the English in 1169. 

^Annals oj Ulster, A.D. 921. 

^The Victorious Career oJ Cellachan of Cashel, p. 71. 
3 The Four Masters record " the pluudering of Kildart by the son 
of Gothfrith {i.e., Olaf) from Waterford " (a.d. 926). 
^The Victorious Career of Cellachan of Cashel, p 70. 
^The Victorious Career of Cellachan of Cashel, pp. 13, 70. 
* Smith : History of Waterford, p 165. 


Cork, the seat of a famous school founded b}^ St. Finbar, 
fell an easy prey to the Vikings in the first half of the ninth 
century. They built forts there and at Youghal/ but in 
endeavouring to push their way inland to Fermoy were 
checked by the Irish (866), and their chief, Gnimcinnsiolla 
(or Gnimbeolu) ^ was slain. We hear no more of Scandinavians 
here until early in the tenth century when new invaders, 
part of the large army which came to Waterford with 
Raghnall and Earl Ottarr in 919, gained possession of the 
town. The new settlers seem to have been chiefly, if not 
entirely, Danes [Danair and Diiihhgeinnti) ,* and it would 
seem that with the Danish colonies at Thurles and 
Cashel they subsequently came under the authority of 
Ivarr of Limerick, " the high-king of the foreigners of 

Traces of the Scandinavian occupation still remain in 
the place-names on the coast, especially in the districts 
surrounding the seaport towns. Near Dublin we find 
Howth (O.N. hdfuth, ' a head ') and Skerries (O.N. 
skjcBY, ' a rock * ; also Lambey, Dalkey and Ireland's Eye, 
all three containing the O.N. form ey, an * island.' The name 
LeixHp is probably a form of O.N. laxhleypa* {' salmon-leap ') 
not, as is generally supposed, of O.N. lax-hlaup. The O.N. 
fjorthr occurs in Wexford, Strangford and Cariingford 

'^Annals of the Four Masters, a.d. 846, 864. 

*/&., 865, Fragments of Annals, p. 169, 

Gnimbeolu is the 0,'N. Grimr Biola. The Irish "Cinnsiolla" 
(Nom. Cenn Selach) is probably a translation of O.N. Selshofxith, 
a word which does not occur as a nickname in Old Norse literature. 
It was, however, known in Ireland as may be seen from the runic 
inscription — domnal Selshofoth a soerth {th) eta — on a bronze sword- 
plate found in Greenmount (Co. Louth). Cf. Marstrander, op. cit. 
p. 49. 

^The Victorious Career of Cellachan of Cashel, pp. 10, 67. 

*Cf. Marstrander, op. cit., p. 149. 


(O.N. Kerlingafjorthr).! Other Scaudinavian names on the 
east coast are Copeland Islands [i.e., Kaupmannaeyjar, ' the 
merchants' islands ') near Belfast Lough ; Arklow, Wicklow 
(O.N. lo, a low, flat meadow by the water's edge.) ; Camsore 
and Greenore (O.N. eyyr, ' a small tongue of land running 
into the sea '). 

The number of names on the south and west coasts 
is Hmited ; besides Water/or^, we find only Heluic^ (O.N. 
vik, ' a bay '), Dursey Island, south-west of Cork, and 
Swerwick Harbour, in Kerry. At least three well- 
authenticated place-names have dropped out of use ; Dun 
na Trapcharla, in Co. Limerick (O.N. (i) torf-karl, ' a 
turf-cutter' or (2) thorp-karl, a 'small farmer');* 
Jolduhlaup,^ a cape in the north of Ireland ; and 
Ulfreksfjorthr,* the Norse name for Lough Lame. 

It is also interesting to note that the second element 
in the names of the three provinces, Ulster, Leinster and 
Munster is derived from the O.N. stathir (plural of stathr, 
' a place '), while the name Ireland (O.N. Iraland) is Scandi- 
navian in form and replaced the old Irish word Briu during 
the Viking period. 

1 Cf. Marstrander, op. cit., p. 154. According to him, the O.N. 
Kenmg, " an old woman" in this instance^ is a folk-etymological 
form of Carlinn, the old name for the ford. 

^ Annais of the Four Masters, A.D. 1062. Cf. Co dunad na 
Piscarcarla in Cath Ruis na Rig (ed. Hogan) where Piscarcarla 
corresponds to the O.N. fiskikari, " a fisherman." 

The word Trapcharla (" na Trapcharla ") al'.o occurs in the Book 
of Bally mote as the name of a people who fought at Troy. It has been 
suggested that the term was generally used during the ninth and 
tenth centuries of a Norse colony in Co. Limerick, which colony 
would acquire a legendary character after the Norsemen had been 
driven out of Ireland, and would figure, like the Lochlannaigh or 
Norsemen, in Lliddle-Irish stories and poems. 

See Miscellany presented to Kuno Meyer, pp. 293, 370. 

^ Landndmabok I, ch. i. 

* Heimskringla : Saga dldfs hins helga, chs. 88, 10. 



When the Scandinavians had firmly established themselves 
on the Irish coasts they developed trade to a considerable 
extent, not only by bringing Ireland into communication 
with their new settlements in England, but also by opening 
up commerce with Iceland and Scandinavia, and even 
with Russia and the East.^ Before a.d. 900 at all events, 
they had been accustomed to visit France from Ireland, 
and had trafficked with merchants there, using a certain 
vessel called the ' Epscop '2 for measuring their wine. That 
this branch of their trade was in a flourishing condition in 
the latter half of the tenth century may be inferred from a 
contemporary poem in which Brian Borumha is said to 
have exacted as tribute one hundred and fiity vats of wine 
from the Norsemen of Dublin, and a barrel of red wine 
every day from the Limerick settlers.^ 

The Scandinavians also made marked advances on the 
old methods of trading by building their forts near the 
large harbours and carrying on from there a continuous 

1 See the map of the Irish Trade Routes in Mrs. J. R. Green's The 
Old Irish World. 

2 " Kpscop fina " in the sea-laws, i.e., " a veisel for measuring 
wine used by the merchants of the Norsemen and the Franks." See 
Sanas Cormaic {Cormac's Glossary) compiled c. A.D. 900. {Anecdota 
from Irish Manuscripts IV., ed. Kuno Meyer.) 

' Cf. O'Curry : Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, II., 
p. 125. For a transcript of the poem see A. Bugge : Vesterlanden^ 
Indjlydelse paa Nordboernes i Vikingctiden, p. 183. 



overseas commerce.^ Previous to this foreign merchants* 
who visited Ireland used to exchange their goods for home 
produce at the numerous oenachs or fairs held at certain 
intervals all over the country. These oenachs continued 
to be celebrated during the Viking period, but it was in the 
seaport towns, DubHn, Limerick, Cork, Wexford, and 
Waterford, that the most important trade was centred. 
Dublin, owing to its splendid position, half way between 
the Continent and the Scandinavian settlements in Scotland 
and Iceland, and within easy distance of England, became 
one of the wealthiest towns in the West. One Irish chronicler 
gives a glowing account of the treasures carried off from there 
by the Irish after the battle of Gleann Mama (a.d. iooo) : 

" In that one place were found the greatest quantities 
of gold, silver, bronze, and precious stones : carbuncle-gems, 
bufialo horns, and beautiful goblets . . . much also of various 
vestures of all colours were found there likewise."^ 

DubHn is frequently mentioned in the sagas and seems 
to have been very well known to Icelandic dealers. In Olai 
Tryggvason's Saga {Heimskringla) we read that during the 
reign of Olaf Cuaran a merchant called Thorir Klakka, who 
had been on many a Viking expedition, went on a trading 
voyage to DubHn, " as was usual in those days."* When 
Olaf's son, Sihtric Silken Beard, was King of DubHn (c. 994) 
the Icelandic poet Gunnlaug Ormstungu sailed from England 
to Ireland with merchants who were bound for DubHn.* 

'^ QL Laxdaela Saga, ch 21. 

* According to an ancient poem on the great fair of Carman (Co. 
Kildare) foreign merchants visited this fair and sold there " articles 
of gold and silver, ornaments and beautiful clothes." For other 
references see Joyce : A Social History of Ancient Ireland, Vol. 
II., pp. 429-431 ; O'Curry : Manners and Customs of the Ancient 
Irish, III., p. 531. 

^ War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, p. 115. 

* Saga Oldfs Tryggvasonar {Heimskringla), ch. 51. 

* Gunnlaugs Saga Ormstungu, ch. 8. 


Eyrbyggia Saga tells ^ of both Th6rodd, the owner of a 
large ship of burden, and Guthleif,^ who went with other 
traders on voyages " west to Dubhn." Still more interesting 
is the account in the same saga of a merchant-ship that came 
from Dublin in the year looo to Snaefellsness in Iceland 
and anchored there for the vSummer. There were on board 
some Irishmen and men from the Sudreyar (Hebrides) but 
only a few Norsemen. One of the passengers, a woman named 
Thorgunna, had a large chest containing " bed-clothes 
beautifully embroidered, English sheets, a silken quilt, and 
other valuable wares, the Hke of which were rare in Iceland."^ 

Limerick is heard of only once in Icelandic sources ; a 
trader named Hrafn was sumamed " the Limerick-farer " 
(Hlymreks f ari) * because he had lived for a long time there. 
The War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill gives a detailed descrip- 
tion of the spoils gained by the Irish after the battle of 
Sulcoit (968) whence it would seem that the Limerick 
Vikings had been engaged in trade with France, Spain and 
the East. 

" They carried away their [i.e., ' The Vikings ') jewels 
and their best property, their saddles, beautiful and foreign, 
their gold and their silver ; their beautifully woven cloth 
of all colours and of all kinds ; their satins and their silken 
cloths, pleasing and vaiiegated, both scarlet and green, 
and all sorts of cloth in hke manner."^ 

Reference has already been made to the numbers of Irish 
women captured by Viking raiders ; many of these captives 
were afterwards sold as slaves in Norway and Iceland. In 
Laxdaela Saga we hear of Melkorka, an Irish princess, who 

^Eyrbyggia Saga, ch. 29. 

2/6.. ch. 64. 

^ lb., ch. 50. 

^Landndmabok, II., ch. 21, etc. 

^War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, p. 79. 


was exposed for sale with eleven other women at a market 
in Norway. The slave-dealer, a man known as Gilli (Ir. 
Giolla) " the Russian " was in all probability a Scandinavian 
merchant from Ireland who had carried on trade with 
Russia. The extent of the slave traffic is further illustrated 
in Kristni Saga (ch. 3) where mention is made of " a fair 
Irish maid " whom Thangbrandr the priest bought ; "' and 
when he came home with her a certain man whom the 
emperor Otto the Young had put as steward there, wished 
to take her from him," but Thangbrandr would not let her 
go 1^ On the other hand, the Irish frequently descended on 
the Viking strongholds in Ireland and carried oS the Norse 
women and children, " the soft, youthful, bright, matchless 
girls ; blooming, silk-clad young women, and active, large 
well-formed boys."^ Therefore it is not unUkely that the 
" slaves ignorant of GaeHc " who are stated to have been 
given as tribute to the Irish kings in the ninth and tenth 
centuries^ were really Scandinavian prisoners of war. 

An interesting passage in the Book of Ely gives an idea 
of the activity of the Irish merchants at this period : 
" Certain merchants from Ireland, with merchandise of 
different kinds and some coarse woollen blankets, arrived 
at the Httle town called Grantebrycge (Cambridge) and 
exposed their wares there."* It is not surprising then that 
the wealth of Ireland increased rapidly, so much so that 
Brian Borumha, reaUsing that this was largely due to Viking 
enterprise, allowed the invaders to remain in their forts 
on the coast " for the purpose of attracting commerce from 

^ Kristni Saga, ch. 3. 

2 War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, p. 79. 

^The Book of Rights (lycabhar na gCeart), pp. 87, 181. Ed. J. 

^Liber Eliensis, (ed. Gale) I., ch. XLII. 


other countries to Ireland."* And even after their defeat 
at Clontarf, the Vikings remained in the coast towns, 
whence they continued to engage in trade witn England 
and the Continent. Both Giraldus Cambrensis* and William 
of Malmesbury^ mention the extensive slave-trade carried 
on between Ireland and England in the twelfth century, 
Bristol being the chief centre. In addition to the slave 
traffic, large supplies of wine were imported from France, 
while the Irish ' out of gratitude ' [non ingrata) gave hides 
and skins in exchange.* That there was commercial intei- 
course with Chester and also with the towns round the 
Bristol Channel may be seen from the names of the citizens 
of Dublin in the year 1200 : Thorkaill, Swein Ivor from 
Cardiff ; Turstinus and Ulf from Bristol ; Godafridus and 
Ricardus from Swansea ; Thurgot from Haverfordwest and 
Harold from Monmouth.^ About 1170 two ships saiHng 
from England " laden with English cloths and a great 
store of goods " were attacked and plundered near DubHn 
by a Norseman, Swein, son of Asleif ; and some years later 
vessels from Britain carrying com and wine were seized in 
Wexford harbour by the English invaders.® 

The historical evidence is amply borne out by the existence 
of such old Norse loan-words in Irish as mangaire (O.N. 
mangari, a ' trader '), marg (O.N. mork, a ' mark '), margadh, 

^Keating : History of Ireland, III., p. 271. (Ed. Dinneen). Keating 
probably derived his information from Giraldus Cambrensis : 
Topographia Hibernica, D. III., ch. LIII. 

^Expugnatio Hibernica, I., ch. XVIII. 
^De Vita S. Wulstani, II.. 20. 

(See Cunningham : Growth of English Industry and CofUfnerce, I., 
p. 86.) 

* Giraldus Cambrensis : Topographia Hibernica, I., ch. VI. 

5 A. Bugge : Contributions to the History of the Norsemen in 
Ireland. Part III. 

• Qiraldus Cambrensis : Expugnatio Hibernica, I,, ch. III. 


(O.N. markathr, a ' market '), and penning (O.N. penningr, 
a ' penny '), and also by certain archaeological discoveries. 
In Scandinavia coins of King Sithric Silken-Beard have been 
found, ^ while four sets of bronze scales and some weights 
richly decorated in enamel and gold have been dug up in 
Ireland (Bangor, Co. Down).* To the same period (early 
ninth century) also belong the scales and weights which were 
discovered in the great hoard at Islandbridge, near Kilmain- 
ham in 1866. ^ With such strong evidence of the influence 
exerted by the Vikings on the expansion of Irish trade it 
is not surprising to find that even as late as the seventeenth 
century the greater part of the merchants of Dublin traced 
their descent to Olaf Cuaran and the Dubhn Norsemen.* 

^ A. Bugge : Vesterlandefies Indflydelse paa Nordboernes i Vikinge- 
tiden, pp. 300-304. 

2 G. Coffey, op. cit„ p. 91. 

3/6., p. 89. 

* Duald Mac Firbis : On the Fomorians and the Norsemen (ed. 
A. Bugge). p. II. 



The almost complete absence of any allusion to Irish ships* 
during the eighth and ninth centuiies shows that at this 
time the Irish had no warships to drive back the powerful 
naval forces of the Vikings. Meeting with no opposition 
on sea the invaders were able to anchor their fleets in the 
large harbours, and afterwards to occupy certain important 
positions along the coasts. In this connection it is interesting 
to note that the Irish word longphort (a * shipstead ' ; later, 
' a camp ') is used for the first time in the Annals of Ulster 
with reference to the Norse encampments at DubHn and 
Ivinn-Duachaill (840) ; hence it has been concluded that 
the early Norse long-phorts were not exactly fortified camps, 
but ' ships drawn up and protected on the landside, probably 
by a stockaded earthwork.'* 

The Annalists tell how, when the Vikings were expelled 
from Dublin in 902, they fled across the sea to England, 
leaving large numbers of their ships behind them. It was 
probably the capture of these vessels that impressed upon 
the Irish the advantages of this new method of warfare, 
for they now began to build ships and to prepare to meet 

* Only one reference is to be found in the Annals. See Annals of 
the Four Masters, a.d. 728. 

* 'B,o\n MacNeill : " The Norse Kingdom of the Hebrides " {Scottish 
Review. Vol. XXXIX., pp. 254-276). 



the Vikings in their own element.^ In 913 a " new fleet,'* 
manned by Ulstermen, attacked the Norsemen off the coast 
of Man but was defeated.* Another Ulster fleet commanded 
by Muirchertach mac Neill, King of Aileach, sailed to the 
Hebrides in 939 and carried off much spoil and booty. ^ 
Moreover, the Irish seem to have imitated the Scandinavian 
practice of " drawing " or carrying their Hght vessels over 
land to the lakes and rivers in the interior of the island. 
Mention is made of Domhnall, son of Muirchertach, who 
" took the boats from the river Bann on to Lough Neagh, 
and over the river Blackwater upon I^ough Kme, and 
afterwards upon I^ough Uachtair."* 

The men of Munster also had their navy, which they 
organised according to Norse methods'' by compelling each 
district in the different counties to contribute ten ships to 
it. Thus by the middle of the tenth century they were able 
to put a formidable fleet to sea. When Cellachan of Cashel 
(d. 954) was captured by the Vikings and brought to DubHn, 

^ It is interesting to recall that a new development in shipbuilding, 
probably due to the same causes, was taking place in England about 
the same time. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle first mentions a naval 
encounter with Vikings under the year 875, and some twenty years 
later describes the long ships, " shaped neither like the Frisian nor 
the Danish," which Alfred had commanded to be built to oppose 
the oescs, or Danish ships. 

^Annals of Ulster, a.d. 912. 

^ Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 939. 

^Annals of the Four Masters, a.d. 953 (= 955). Annals of Ulster, 
A.v. 963. 

To this entry the annalist adds the following note : " Quod non 
factum est ab antiquis temporibus." 

Cf. Three Fragments of Annals (a.d. 873) : " Bairith (O.N. Barthr), 
drew many ships from the sea westwards to I^ough Ree. ..." 

® Ancient Norway was divided by Haakon into districts (Skipreithur) 
each of ^vhich had in wartime to equip and man a warship : the 
number of these districts was fixed by law. Gulathingslog, 10. Cf. 
The Victorious Career of Cellachan of Cashel, p. 151, n; etc. Cf, 
The Saga of Haakon the Good {Heimskr.), ch. 2j. 


he sent messengers to the Munstermen bidding them to 
defend their territory : " and afterwards," he said, "go to 
the chieftains of my fleet and bring them with you to Smth 
na Maeile (Mull of Cantyre), and if I am carried away from 
Ireland, let the men of Munster take their ships and follow 
me."^ The chronicle goes on to give a vivid description of 
the great naval battle which followed : the Vikings under 
the leadership of Sihtric, a prince from Dublin, took up 
their position in the Bay of Dundalk, where the " barques 
and swift ships of the men of Munster " met them. The 
Irish ships were arranged according to the territories they 
represented : those of Corcolaigdi and Ui Echach (Co. 
Cork) were placed farthest south ; next came the fleets of 
Corcoduibne and Ciarraige (Co. Kerry), and lastly those 
of Clare. When the Munstermen saw Cellachan, who had 
been bound and fettered to the mast by Sihtric's orders, 
they made gallant attempts to release him ; some of them 
leaped upon " the rowbenches and strong oars of the mighty 
ships " of the Norsemen, while others threw tough ropes 
of hemp across the prows to prevent them from escaping. 
Failbhe, King of Corcoduibne, brought his ship alongside 
Sihtric's, and with his sword succeeded in cutting the ropes 
and fetters that were round the King, but was himself 
slain immediately afterwards. The battle ended in victory 
for the Irish : the Norsemen were forced to leave the harbour 
with all their ships, but " they carried neither King nor 
chieftain with them."* 

The War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill records still more 
victories for the Munster fleet during the reign of Brian 
Borumha. In 984 he assembled " a great marine fleet *' 
on Lough Derg and took three hundred boats up the 

"^The Victorious Career of Cellachan of Cashel, pp. 29, 86. 
• Ih., pp. 89-102. 


Shannon to Lough Ree^ and again in looi saikd with his 
fleet to Athlone.* But the greatest triumph of all was in 
1005, when Brian, then at the height of his power, " sent 
forth a naval expedition composed of the foreigners of 
Dubhn and Waterford and the Ui Ceinnselaigh (i.e., the 
men of Wexford) and almost all the men of Erin, such of 
them as were fit to go to sea ; and they levied royal tribute 
from the Saxons and the Britons and from the men of 
Lennox in Scotland and the inhabitants of Arg^de."* 

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the names of a number 
of Frisian sailors who fought with the English in a naval 
battle against the Vikings (A. an. 897). In the same way the 
Irish ships must have been manned to a large extent by Norse 
mercenaries or by the Gaill-Gaedhil, for practically all the 
shipping terms introduced into Irish in the tenth and 
eleventh centuries are of Norse origin.* This is evident 
from the following Hst : — 

llid. Ir. abor, ahiir : O.N. hdbora, ' an oar hole.' 
Accaire : O.N. akkeri, * an anchor.' 

Accarsoid: O.N. akkerissaeti, 'a harbour for 

Achtuaim : O.N. aktaumr, ' a brace.' 

athhha : phonetic form (af, av) of O.N. 

hofuih, ' head ' of a ship. 

'^War of the GaedJiil ivith the Gaill, p. 109. 

*Ih., p. 133. 

^ lb., p. 137. 

•See A. Bugge : Novse Loan-ivords in Irish {Miscellany Presented 
to Kuno Meyer, p. 291 ff.). 

W. A. Craigie : Oldnordiske Ord i de Gaelishe Sprog {Arhiv for 
Nordisk Filologi, X., 1894). 

C. Marstrander : Bidrag til det Norske Sprogs Histnrie i Irland. 

K. Meyer : Revue Celtique, ■ X.,ypp. 367-9. 

^^Xl.,'pp. 493-5. 

,, ,, XII., (pp. ^6o-3. 



Allsad : 




bat, bad : 


birling : 


carb : 


cnairr : 


laid en g : 


lip ting : 


liinnta, Innn (in 

reania) : 


scib : 


tile : O.N. 

Tlusdais (? teldass) : O.N. 

uicing, a word used 
for ' a fleet ' : O.N. 

uiginnecht, piracy : 

halsa, * to slacken a sail.* 

ass, ' the pole to which the 
lower end of a sail was 
fastened during a fair wind.' 

bdtr, 'a boat.' 

byrthingr, ' a transport vessel/ 
' a merchant ship.'i 

karfi, ' a ship.' 

knorr, ' a merchant ship.' 

leithangr, ' naval forces.' 

lypting, ' a taffrail.' 

hlunnr, ' the handle of an oar.' 

skip, ' a ship/ whence also are 
derived sciobaire, * a sailor ' 
and scipad and sgiobadh, ' to 
make ready for saihng/ 

thili, * a plank/ ' the bottom 
board in a boat.' 

tjalddss, ' the horizontal top- 
mast of a ship.' 

Vikingr, ' one who haunts a 
bay or creek.' 

^ i ' Marstrander {op. cit., p. 21) suggests that the word is connected 
with the O.N. dialectal form herling, " a little .stick or beam under the 
shallow.s in a boat." 




{a) Loan-words from Old Norse in Irish. 

The large number of loan-words from Old Xorse which 
occur in Old and Middle Irish indicate clearly the extent 
and character of Scandinavian influence in Ireland. They 
are therefore interesting from an historical point of view, 
for thej^ confirm, and sometimes supplement, the evidence 
of Irish and Icelandic sources, that the relations existing 
between the two peoples were largely of a f riendh^ character. 
As the subject has already been fully dealt with by 
Celtic scholars, ^ onty the more important loan words are 
given here : — 

I. Dress 2 and Armour. 
O.Ir. at-cliiic, also clocc-att ' a helmet.' att = O.N. hattr, 

* a hat,' while cluic = M. Ir. clocenn, ' a head ' 
M. Ir. allsmann ; O.N. halsmen, ' a necklace.' 
M. Ir. boga ; O.N. bogi, ' a bow.' 

M. Ir. bossan ; O.N. puss, * a small bag or purse 

hanging from the belt,' 
M. Ir. cnapp ; O.N. knappr, ' a button.' 

1 Cf. the list of authorities referred to ante. pp. 38, 39. 

2 The Norsemen sometimes adopted Irish fashions in their 
dress. The great Viking Magnus, who was killed in Ireland 
in A.D. 1 103, was usually called " barelegs " (O.N. berfaettr) 
because he always wore the Irish kilts ; and his son, Harold Gilli, 
who could speak Irish better than Norse, " much wore the Irish 
raiment, being short-clad and light-clad." It was probably from his 
Irish cuaran, or shoes of skin that 01 af Sihtricsson, the famous King 
of Dublin received his nickname. 



M. Ir. elta ; O.N. hjalt, ' a hilt ' (of a sword). 

M. Ir. mattal ; O.N. mdttull, ' a cloak.' 

M. Ir. mergge; O.N. merki, ' a flag ' or ' banner.' 

M. Ir. sceld ; O.N. skojldr, ' a shield.' 

O. Ir. scot, lin scoU ; O.N. skaiit, ' a cloth,' or ' sheet.' 

M. Ir. starga ; O.N. targa, ' a shield.' 

M. Ir. bailc; 
M. Ir. fidndeog: 
M. Ir. garda ; 
M. Ir. halla ; 
M. Ir. sparv : 
M. Ir. si5J//; 

Other interesting 
O. Ir. armand, 

armann ; 
M. Ir. callaire ; 
M. Ir. gunnfann ; 
O. Ir. ^/'^W ; M. Ir. 

iavla : 
M. Ir. lagmainn ;^ 

M. Ir. P^?'s;2 
M. Ir. srdid; 
M. Ir. sreang ; 
M. Ir. ^m'z7/; 
M. Ir. trosg ; 
O. Ir. itstaing ; 

II. Housebuilding. 
O.N. 6^7^;', ' a beam.' 
O.N. vindaiiga, ' a window. 
O.N. garthr, ' a garden.' 
O.N. /io//, ' a hall.' 
O.N. sparri, ' a rafter.' 
O.N. s/d^/, ' a stool.' 


loan words are : — 

O.N. drmathr, ' an officer.' 

O.N. kallari, ' a herald.' 

O.N. gimnfdni, ' a battle standard.* 

O.N. jarl, ' an earl.' 

O.N. logmenn, plural of logmatJiY, ' a 

O.N. berserkr. 
O.N. straeti, ' a street.' 
O.N. strengy, ' a string.' 
O.N. thraell, ' a slave.' 
O.N. thorskr, ' codfish.' 
O.N. hiisthing, ' an assembly.' 

^ In the Annals of the Foiiv Masters (A.D, 960), laguiainn is the 
name given to certain chieftains from the Hebrides who phuidered 
the southern and eastern coasts of Ireland. 

* The word occurs only once in Irish : cf . The Victorious Carser of 
Cellachan of Cushel, p. 140. 


Certain old Norse words and phrases which are to be found 
in Irish texts also go to show the familiarity of the Irish 
with the Norse language. They may be mentioned here, 
although they are not loan-words, but rather attempts 
on the part of the Irish authors to reproduce the speech 
of the foreigners : — 

ciug.'^ O.N. koniingv, or possibly 

A.S. cyning. 

coming (Three Fragments of 

Annals, pp. 126, 194, 228). O.N. kommgr, ' a king.* 

" Faras Domnall ? " (War of 
the Gaedhil with the Gaill ; 
p. 174). " Hvar es Domhnall ? " 

" Where is Domhnall ? '* 

"Simd a sniding," was the O. Jr. simd, " here.'* 
reply. O.N. nithingr, " here, 


fiiit (Book of Leinster, 172, 

a, 7). O.N. hvitr, ' white.' 

In fait, a personal name ; 
War of the Gaedhil with 
the Gaill, p. yS. O.N. hvitr, * white.' 

'^The War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, p. 203, says that when 
the Norsemen were fleeing after the battle of Clontarf, Earl Broder, 
accompanied by two warriors, passed by the tent in which King 
Brian was. One of these men, who had been in Brian's service, saw 
the King and cried " Cing, Cing " (This is the King). " No, no, acht 
prist, prist " said Broder (No, no, it is a priest, said Broder). 


litill {ibid., p. 84). O.N. litill, ' little.' 

mikle (Three Fragments of 
Annals, p. 176). O.N. mikill, ' much.' 

nui,nui {ibid,'p. 16^).'^ O.N. kmie, ixom knyja, 'to 


roth.^ O.N. raitthr, ' red.' 

(b) Gaelic Words in Old Norse Literature. ^ 

Considering the close connection between Ireland and 
Iceland, especially in the tenth and eleventh centuries, it 
is surprising that so few Gaelic words found their way 
into Old Norse Hterature. The only Norse words that can 
be said, with any certainty, to be derived from Irish, are 
the following : — 

bjamiak ( Ynglingasaga, 

Heimskringla, ch. 2) : Ir. bennacM, ' a blessing.' 

erg [Orkneyinga Saga, ch. 113) Ir. airghe, (i) ' a herd of 

(2) * grazing land/ 

1 These annals state that on one occasion (a.d. 869) Cennedigh 
of Ivcix, a brave Irish chieftain, was pursued by the Norsemen, who 
" blew their trumpets and raised angry barbarous shouts, many of 
them crying ' nui, mii.' " 

2 Marstrander {op. cit, p. 156) suggests, however, that roth may be 
an archaic form of the Irish niadh, ' red.' 

^ Cf. W. A. Craigie : Gaelic Words and Names in the Sagas and 
Landndmabok. [Zeitscltrift fiir Celtische Philologie, Band I., pp. 

A. Bugge : Vesterlandenes Indflydelse paa Nordbosmes i Vihinge- 
iiden, ch. 9. See especially pp. 358-359. 


gelt ;^ Ir. g^^l^, ' a madman/ 

varth at gjalti, to become mad 
I with fear. Cf . Eyrhyggja 
, Saga, ch. i8. 

ingian ; Ir. inghean, ' a girl.' 

kapall (Fommanna Sogur II., 

p. 231) ; Ir- capall, ' a horse.* 

kesja : Ir. c^Js, ' a spear.' 

y^of'^i (Snorres Edda, II., 493); Ir. coivce, ' oats.' 

kross : Ir. cws, ' a cross.' 

kuaran ; Ir. cnaran, ' a shoe ' (made 

of skin). 

1 There is an interesting account of the gelt in the Old Norse 
Konungs Skuggsjd {Speculum Regale) : 

" It happens that when two hosts meet and are arranged in battle- 
array, and when the battle-cry is raised loudly on both sides, 
cowardly men run wild and lose their wits from the dread and fear 
which seize them. And they run into a wood away from other men, 
and live there like beasts and shun the meeting of men like wild 
beasts. And it is said of these men then when they have Hved in the 
woods in that condition for twenty years, that feathers grew on 
their bodies like birds, whereby their bodies are protected against 
frost and cold. ..." 

Cf . Kuno Meyer : On the Irish Mivahilla in the Old Norse 
"Speculum Regale" {Eriu, Vol. IV., pp. 11-12). 

This bears a .striking resemblance to a certain passage in the 
mediaeval romance Cath Muighe Rath (Battle of Moy Rath, p. 232. 
Ed. by O'Donovan). It may also be compared with another romance, 
which probably dates from the same period, viz., Bnile Suibhne. 
{The Madness of Suibhne, ed. by J. G. O'Keefe for the Irish Texts 
Society). Cf. also Hdvamdl (ed. Gering), .str. 129, etc. 


ktithi i"^ ? Ir. cuthach, 'fierce.' 

mahdiarik;^ Ir. mallackt diiit, a rig, 'a 

curse upon you, O king.' 
minnthak ;^ Ir. mintach, 'made of meal.' 

rig (in Rigsmdl) ; Ir. ri[g), ' a king.' 

tarfr {Eyrbyggia Saga, cli. 63, 
etc.) Ir. tarbh, ' a bull.' 

(c) Irish Influence on Icelandic Place- 

A number of the place-names mentioned in the 
Landndmahok* contain a Gaelic element which, ^Yith one 
or two exceptions, is present in the form of a personal name. 
Among these Icelandic place-names we may note the 
following : — 

Personal Name. 
Bekkanstatkir : Ir. Beccdn. 

(i) Branslackr, (eilso (2) 

Brjamslackr) ; Ir. (i) Bran, (2) Brian. 

^ Vilbald, a descendant of Kjarval, King of Ossory, liad a ship 
called Kuthi, cf. Landndmahok , IV., ch. 11. Todd {War of the Gaedhil 
with the Gain, p. 299,0.) suggests Ir. Cuthach. 

2j^ccording to Jans Saga kins Helga, ch. 14 {Bishupa Sogiiv I., 
Kaupmannahofn, 1858) King Magnus Barelegs sent an Icelander 
with other hostages to King Myrkjartan of Connacht. When 
they arrived there, one of the Norsemen addressed the King 
m these words : " Male diarik," to which the King repHed " Olgeira 
ragall," i.e., Ir., olc aev adh ra gall, (it is a bad thing to be cursed by 
a Norseman.) 

3 minnthak was the name given by Hjorleif 's Irish thralls to the 
mixture of meal and butter which they compounded while on board 
ship on their way to Iceland. They said it was good for quenching 
thirst. Cf. Landmmabdk, I., ch. 6. 

*Cf. Whitley Stokes, op. ctt., pp. 186 191, 



Personal Name. 

Dufansdalir ; 



Dufthaksholt ; 



also Dufthakskor ; etc. 

Kalmansd ; 



also Kalmanstunga. 

Kjallaksholl, Kjallaksstathiv , 

: Ir. 


Kjaninsvik ; 



Kylaiisholar ; 


Culen (Marstrander). 

(i) Lnnansholt or 


(i) Lon-dn 

(2) Lumansholt ; 

(2) Lomnidn. 

Minnthakseyy ; 


mintach, ' made of meal.' 

Papyli, Papey ; 


* papa,' ' an anchorite 

Patreksfjoythr ; 


personal name Patraic. 



Beyond a few meagre allusions the Irish Annals throw no 
light on the progress of Christianity among the " foreigners " 
in Ireland during the ninth century. Fortunately, however, 
the Icelandic Sagas and the Landndniabok have preserved 
some interesting details concerning a small number of the 
Norse settlers in Iceland, who had previously come under 
the influence of Christianity in Ireland and in the Western 
Islands of Scotland. As far as we can gather from these 
sources the new faith seems at first to have made but httle 
headway ; heathenism retained a strong hold on the majority 
of the Norse people, and there can be Httle doubt that this 
form of religion was extensively practised in Ireland during 
the Viking age. Evidence of this is to be found in The 
Way of the Gaedhil imth the Gaill, which describes how 
Authr, wife of Turgeis, sat on the high altar of the church 
in Clonmacnois, and gave audiences as a prophetess.^ In 
this instance the high altar would seem to have corresponded 
to the seithy hjally or platform which it was customary to 
erect in Icelandic houses when a volva or prophetess was 
called in to foretell the future. ^ Some writers ^ also point 

'^War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, p. 13. 

Cf. also Three Fragments of Annals, p. 146 : " In a battle fought 
between the Irish and the Norsemen the latter were driven to a 
small place surrounded by a wall. The druid Hona went up on the 
wall, and with his mouth open began to pray to the gods and to 
exercise his magic ; he ordered the people to worship the gods. ..." 

2 Cf. Thoyfinssaga Karlsefnis, ch. 3 ; Vatnsdaela Saga, cli. 10 ; 
Thdtiy af Nornagesti, ch. 11; Hrolfs Saga. Kraka, ch, 3; etc. 

^ e.g., C. Haliday : The Scandinavian Kingdom of Dublin, p 12 ft". 
Margaret Stokes, op. cit., pp. 96-98. 



to the numerous raids ou churches and religious houses 
as a proof of the Vikings* hostility to Christianity, but 
these attacks were much more likel}'' to have originated in 
the amount of treasure which the raiders knew to be stored 
in these places. It is rather in this light, too, that we must 
regard Turgeis' expulsion of the abbot Farannan from 
Armagh (in 839), and his subsequent usurpation of the 
abbacy, 1 than as an attempt to stamp out Christianity 
and establish heathenism in its stead. 

Yet, at the same time, the Norsemen must have come into 
close contact with the religion of the " \Vhite Christ " 
through their intercourse with the Irish. Indeed, an entry 
in the Annals of Ulster (a.d. S72), referring to the death 
of fvarr the Boneless, impHes that this famous Viking died 
a Christian. 2 The records are silent on this point with regard 
to Olaf the White, although he was related by marriage 
to Ketill Flatnose, a famous chief in the Hebrides, all of 
whose family, with the exception of his son, Bjorn the 
Easterner, adopted Christianity. Olaf 's wife, Authr, daughter 
of Ketill, was one of the most zealous of these early Norse 
converts : " She used to pray at Crossknolls, where she 
had crosses erected, because she was baptized, and was a 
good Christian." Before her death she gave orders that she 
was to be buried on the seashore, between high and low 
water-mark, because she did not wish to lie in unconsecrated 
ground. The Landndmabok also says that for some time 
after her death her kinsfolk reverenced these knolls, but 
in course of time their faith became corrupt, and in the same 

^ Cf. War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, p. 8. 

2 The expression used is quievit in Chrisio aud occurs only in 
MS. A . As neither MS. B nor any of the other annals mention Ivarr's 
conversion it may be that the scribe of the former ha=? unintentionally 
slipped into using a formula which was customary in recording the 
death ot a Christian. 


place they built a temple and offered up sacrifices. ^ We 
hear, too, of Orlygr the Old, who had been fostered by 
Bishop Patrick in the Hebrides. When he was setting out 
for Iceland the Bishop gave him " wood for building a 
church, a plenarium, an iron penny and some consecrated 
earth to be put under the corner pillars," and asked him 
to dedicate the church to St. Columba. On the vo^^age a 
great storm arose. Orlygr prayed to St. Patrick that he 
might reach Iceland in safety, promising, as a thanksgiving, 
to call the place in which he should land by the saint's 
name. 2 ]\Iention is also made of several other Christians 
from the British Isles : Jorundr, Helgi Bjola ]^ Thorkell— 
son of Svarkell from Caithness — " who pra3^ed before the 
cross, ever good to old men, ever good to young men ; '"^ 
As61f,5 Ketill — grandson of Ketill Flatnose^ — who was sur- 
named hinn fifiski (' the fooHsh ') because he adhered to 
Christianity.® A long time after (c. a.d. 997) Thangbrandr 
the Priest found descendants of Ketill's in Iceland, " all 
of whom had been Christians from father to son.'"^ 
Considering the missionary ardour of the Irish at this period 
it is curious that no priests accompanied these early settlers 
to Iceland. This may have been due to scepticism as to the 
sincerity of these converts ; such, at least, is the impression 
received from the Irish annals and chronicles, in which the 
Norsemen are almost invariably referred to as ' heathens ' 
and ' pagans.' The result was that the influence of 
Christianit}^ declined in Iceland ; " some of those who came 
from west-the-sea remained Christians until the day of 

'^Landndmahok, II., ch. 16. 

^Landndmahok, I., ch. 12, 

3/6., v., ch. 15. 

^Ib., I., ch. 13. 

^Ib., I., ch. 15. 

8/6.. IV.. ch. II. 

' Njdls Saga, ch i o i . 


their death *' says the Landndmahok, " but their families 
did not always retain the faith, for some of their sons erected 
temples and offered sacrifices, and the land was wholly 
heathen for nearly one hundred and twent}^ 3^ears."i 

In the transition from heathenism to Christianity 
opposing beHefs were sometimes held at the same time ; 
the Viking continued to have recourse to Thor even after 
he had been baptized. Helgi the Lean, son of Byvindr the 
Easterner, and Rafarta, daughter of King Cearbhall of 
Ossory, " was very mixed in his faith ; he believed in 
Christ, but he invoked Thor for seafaring and brave deeds. 
When he came in sight of Iceland he asked Thor where 
he should settle down ; " and when he had built his house, 
" he made a large fire near every lake and river, thus sancti- 
fying all the land between. . . . Helgi beHeved in Christ, and 
therefore named his house after Him." 2 We also read that 
" Orlygr the Old and his family trusted in Columba,"* 
but whether they abandoned all other belief in the Christian 
faith and fell into Paganism is not quite clear. Again, in 
the account of the naval battle between Danes and Norse- 
men in Carhngford lyough (a.d. 852) the annalist describes 
how " Lord Horm," leader of the Danish forces, advised 
his men to " pray fervently " to St. Patrick, " the 
archbishop and head of the saints of Erin," whose churches 
and monasteries the Norsemen had plundered and burned. 
So the Danes put themselves under the protection of the 
saint : " Let our protector," they cried, " be the holy 
Patrick and the God who is lord over him also, and let our 
spoils and our wealth be given to his church." After the 
battle ambassadors frcm the drd-ri found the Danes seated 
round a great fire, cooking their food in cauldrons — which 

'^Landnamahok, V., ch. 15. 
2/6., III., ch. 12. 
8/6.. I., ch. 12. 


were supported on the dead bodies of the Norsemen, while 
near by was " a trench full of gold and silver to give to 
Patrick ; for the Danes," adds the chronicler, " were a 
people with a kind of piety ; they could for a while refrain 
from meat and from women." ^ 

This confusion of the two religions is also illustrated in 
the crosses, sj^mbols of Christianity, which the Vikings 
erected in the north of England and in the Isle of Man to 
the memory of their kinsfolk. On the Gosforth cross in 
Cumberland a representation of the Crucifixion — obviously 
influenced by Celtic designs — is found side by side with a 
figure of the god Vitharr slaying the Wolf, a scene de- 
scribed in Vafthruthnismal ; while on the western side 
of the cross is portrayed the punishment of Loki.^ A frag- 
ment of a cross in the same locaHty shows Thor fishing 
for the Mithgarthsormr, 3 a subject which is also treated 
on a cross slab in Kirk Bride Parish Church, Isle of Man.* 
Among the many other Celtic crosses in Man are four upon 
which are carved pictures from the story of Sigurthr 
Fafnisbani : Sigurthr roasting the dragon's heart on the 
fire and cooling his fingers in his mouth, his steed Grani 
and the tree with the talking birds ; another figure has been 
identified with Loki throwing stones at the Otter. ^ There 
are besides twenty-six crosses with Runic inscriptions, six 
of which bring out the Viking connection with the Celtic 
Church. On one the Ogam alphabet is scratched, and the 
same monument bears a Runic inscription which tells us 
that " Mai Lumkun (Ir. Mael Lomchon) raised this cross 

^Three Fragments of Annals, pp. 120-124. 
2 Cf . Gylfaginning, chs. 51, 52. 

^ H'piniskvitha, pass. Cf. W. S. Calverley : The Ancient Crosses 
at Gosforth, p. 168. 

* P. M. C. Kermode. : Manx Crosses, pp. 180-184. 
^Ib., pp. 170-179. 


to his foster (mother) Malmuni (Ir. Maelmuire), daughter 
of Tufgal (Ir. Dubhgall), whom Athisl had to wife." To this 
the nine writer adds : "It is better to leave a good foster- 
son than a bad son."i Crosses were also erected by Mail 
Brikti (Ir. Mael Brigde), son of Athakan (Ir. Aedhacan) 
the smith ;2 by Thorleifr Hnakki in remembrance of his 
son Fiak (Ir. Fiacca) ;3 and by an unknown Norseman to 
the memory of his wife Murkialu (Ir. Muirgheal).* Another 
cross-slab commemorates Athmiul (? Ir. Cathmaoil), wife 
of Truian {i.e., the Pictish name Dmian), son of Tufkal,** 
while still another stone contains a fragment of a prayer 
to Christ, and the Irish saints, Malaki (Malachy), Bathrik 
(Patrick), and Athanman (Adamnan).« 

The advance of Christianity during the tenth century 
may be attributed to a large extent to the prevalence of 
the practice known as prime-signing or marking with the 
sign of the cross. According to Eyrhyggja Saga (ch. 50), 
this was " a common custom among merchants and 
mercenary soldiers in Christian armies, because those men 
who were ' prime-signed ' could associate with Christians 
as well as heathens, while retaining that faith which they 
liked best." Nearly all the Norse kings who reigned in 
Dublin during this century seem to have accepted 
Christianity. When Gothfrith plundered Armagh in 919 
" he spared the church and the houses of prayer, with their 
company of culdees (ceile-de) and the sick."' We may assume 

^ lb., pp. 86-95, 195-199- 

' lb., pp. 150-153- 

2 Jb., pp. 203-205. 

■* lb., pp. 209-213. 

^ lb., p. 169. 

* lb., pp. 212-213. 

"^Annals of Ulster, a.d. 919. The vSame source in recording 
Gothfrith's death (A.D. 933) speaks of him as " the most cruel of 
the Norsemen." 


that Sihtric Gale, Gothfrith's brother (or cousin) was also 
a Christian, since he formed a friendly alhance with Aethel- 
stan, who gave him his sister in marriage. ^ In 943 Olaf 
Cuaran was baptized, and in the same year Rognvaldr, 
another Norse prince, was confirmed.'* After the battle 
of Tara (980) Olaf went on pilgrimage to lona, where he 
died " after penance and a good life."^ His daughter and 
grandson were called by distinctively Irish Christian names 
— Maelmuire* (servant of Mary), and Gilla Ciarain^ (servant 
of St. Ciaran). We ma}- also note the name Gilla-Padraig 
which occurs in the royal family of Waterford^ and the 
half-Irish name of a priest in Clonmacnois, Connmhach 
Ua Tomrair, who must have been of Norse extrac- 

But all traces of heathenism in Ireland had not disappeared 
by the end of the tenth century. An interesting relic was 
Thor's ring (Ir. fail Tomhair) which was carried off from 
Dubhn by King Maelsechnaill II. in 994.^ This must have 
been the ddm-hnngr, so frequently alluded to in Icelandic 
Hterature. It was a ring of silver or gold, about twenty 
ounces in weight, which lay upon an altar in the temple, 
except during ceremonies, when it was worn on the priest's 
arm.^ Upon this ring oaths w^ere usually sworn. i'' That it 
was connected with the worship of Thor is clear from a 
passage in the Landndmahdk describing a place called 

^Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, MS.D., a.d. 925. 

2/fc., MSS. A., 942, D. 943. 

^Annals of the Four Masters, a.d. 979. 

* lb., A.D. I02I. 

^War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, p. 207. 

• Annals of the Four Masters, a.d. 982. 

'76., A.D. lOII. 
® lb., A.D. 994. 

^Eyrbyggja Saga, clis. 4 and 10; Kjalnesinga Saga, ch. 2; etc. 
^oCf. Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, M5. /4. Annal, a.d, 876, Kjalnesinga 
Saga, ch. 2 ; etc. 


Thorsnea in Iceland : " there still stands Thor's stone, 
on which were broken the backs of those men who were 
about to be sacrificed, and close b}^ is the ddmhringr where 
the men were condemned to death." ^ Even as late as the 
year a.d. looo we hear of Thor's wood {caill Tomair) 
north of DubUn, which was laid waste by Brian Borumha 
after the battle of Gleann Mama.^ 

The battle of Clontarf (a.d. 1014) is frequently represented 
as a great fight between Pagan and Christian, but this 
point of view is hardly confirmed by the historical facts. 
It is true that the Norsemen numbered among their 
supporters such prominent upholders of heathenism as 
Sigurthr, earl of Orkney, and Broder — who had been a 
mass-deacon, but " now worshipped fiends, and was of all 
men most skilled in sorcery," yet it must be remembered 
that the Leinstermen, under their king Maelmordha, also 
formed part of the Norse army on the same occasion. More- 
over, both the Norse and Irish accounts of the battle agree 
that Gormflaith, who had been the wife of Brian Borumha, 
inspired by hatred of Brian, was mainly responsible for the 
renewal of hostiUties between the two peoples. Her son, 
Sihtric Silken Beard, who was most active in mobihsing 
the Norse troops, must have been a Christian, since the 
coins which were minted in Dublin during his reign are 
stamped with the sign of the cross. In 1028 he visited 
Rome, and there is record of another visit some years later.' 
His death is entered in the Annals under the year 1042, 
in which same year his daughter, a nun in an Irish convent, 
also died.* 

It was probably on his return to Dublin from Rome in 

'^Lnndndmaboh, II., ch. 12. 

^Vnr of the Gaedhil zvith the GaiU, pp. 196, 198. 

^ Atmals of Tigernach, ad. 1028, 1036. 

* Jh., A.D. 10-^2. 


1036 that Sihtric gave " a place on which to build a church 
of the Blessed Trinity," afterwards known as Christchurch 
Cathedral, and " contributed gold and silver wherewith to 
build it."i 

The Norsemen would seem to have regarded the 
Irish Church with no friendly feelings. The first Norse 
bishop, Dunan or Donatus, was on intimate terms with 
lyanfranc, and when the next bishop, Patrick, was chosen 
by the clergy and people of DubUn, he was sent, with a 
letter professing their " bounden obedience " to lyanfranc 
for consecration (a.d. 1074). 2 His successors, Donatus 
(d. 1095), Samuel (d. 1121), and Gregory (d. 11 62) were also 
consecrated at Canterbury, and acknowledged the supremacy 
of the archbishop. An interesting letter addressed to the 
Archbishop of Canterbury by the priests and citizens of 
Dublin in 1121 is still extant : " You know," the letter 
runs, " that the bishops of Ireland, more especially the 
Bishop of Armagh, is extremeh^ angry with us because we 
will not submit to his decrees, and because we always wish 
to remain under your authority. ^ 

Bishoprics were founded at Waterford and Wexford 
later than in Dublin. Malcus, the first Bishop of Waterford, 
was consecrated at Canterbury, and on his arrival in 
Waterford in 1096, he began to build a church, dedicated, 
hke that of DubUn, to the Holy Trinity.* 

Some years later we hear of a Bishop of Limerick, Gilla 
or Gilbert, who does not seem to have been consecrated 
in England, but who was in close touch with the Archbishop 

^The Whole Works of Sir James Ware Concerning Ireland, Vol I., 
p. 301. (Ware quotes from the Black Book of Christchurch Cathedral, 

2/6., p. 306. 

»/6., pp. 309-311. 

*/fe., pp. 525-6. 


of Canterbury.* He it was who convoked the synod at 
Rathbresail, at which it was decided to divide Ireland into 
dioceses : "there," says Keating, "the sees and dioceses of the 
bishops of Ireland were regulated ; Dublin was excluded, 
because it was not customar}^ for its bishop to receive 
consecration except from the Archbishop of Canterbury."* 
lyimerick and Waterford were placed under the jurisdiction 
of the Bishop of Cashel, but this decree seems to have been 
ignored by the people of Limerick, for they elected their 
next bishop, Patrick, in the ordinary way and sent him 
to England for consecration. ^ It is uncertain whether the 
Waterford people obe3^ed, as the records merely mention 
the names of the succeeding bishops. 

A still more important S3Tiod was held at Kells in 1132. 
There the decision of the j^revious synod regarding the 
division of the country into dioceses was ratified, and 
archbishoprics were established at DubHn, Armagh, Cashel, 
and Tuam. Henceforth the bishops of DubHn, Limerick, 
and Waterford were consecrated in Ireland, and this marked 
the close of the connection between Canterbury and the 
Celtic Church. 

17&., p. 504. 

Cf. J. MacCa&rey : The Black Book of Limerick. Introduction, 
chs. 5 and 7. 

^The History of Ireland, bv Geoffrey Keating (ed. P. S. Dinneen). 
Vol. III., p. 298. 

^Ware, op. cit., p. 505. 




The most interesting branch of early Norse literature is 
the saga or prose story. Of these there are many varieties 
but the most distinctive are the f ollo^ving : (i) the Islendinga 
Sogur, or stories relating to prominent Icelanders, (2) 
Konunga Sogur, or stories of Kings, chiefly of Norway ; 
(3) Fornaldar Sogur, or stories about early times. All these 
are essentially Icelandic in origin ; sagas having their 
origin in Norway are by no means unknown, but they are, 
as a rule, translated or derived from French and other 
foreign sources.^ In their present form the sagas relating 
to the history of Iceland date for the most part from the 
thirteenth century, though some of them were probably 
committed to writing in the latter part of the twelfth. 

The earliest Icelandic document of which we have any 
record is the original text of the Laws, said to have been 
written in the year 1181. Ari's Islendinga-Bok, containing 

^ It has been stated (cf. E. Mogk : Geschichte d^y Norwegisch- 
Isldndischen Literatur. Strassburg, 1904, p. 830) that mauy of 
Saxo's stories came from Norway, where they had been collected 
by an Icelander in the twelfth century. There can be no doubt that 
stories of some kind relating to families and localities — especially 
stories which accounted, or professed to account for local names — 
were current in Norway down to this time. Such stories form the 
basis of many of the Fornaldar Sogur, but in all probability these had 
been familiar to Icelanders from the first settlement of the island, 
or at least during the tenth century. We have no evidence that they 
ever gained literary form in Norway. (Cf.Fiunur jonssoU ; Old 
Norske Liiteraturs Historie, II., p. 791.) 



a short account of the settlement of Iceland with notices 
of the more important events, and accounts of the succession 
of lawmen and bishops, was written a few 3'ears later, though 
the form in which it has come down to us is that of an 
abbreviated text written about the year 1130. This work, 
the foundation of all subsequent historical writing in 
Iceland, contains some shoil notices, which apparently- 
had been handed down by tradition, but these stories, 
usually known as sagas, would seem to have been written 
down somewhat later. Indeed until the close of the twelfth 
century the language emplo^-ed for historical writings in 
Iceland, as elsewhere, was for the most part Latin. 

Though the writing of the sagas did not begin until the 
latter part of the twelfth century, sagas in some form 
or other must have been in existence much earlier, carried 
on from generation to generation by oral tradition. This 
faculty of reciting sagas was a special characteristic of the 
Icelanders, by whom it was carefully cultivated. In the 
preface to his Historia Danica Saxo acknowledges his 
indebtedness to the " men of Thule," who " account it a 
delight to learn and to consign to remembrance the history 
of all nations, deeming it as great a glory to set forth the 
excellence of others as to display their own. Their stores, 
which are stocked with attestations of historical events, 
I have examined somewhat closely and have woven together 
no small portion of the present work by following their 
narrative. "1 

That the art of storytelling did not decUne in Iceland 
even after the majority of the sagas were written down is 

'^The First Nine Books of the Danish History of Saxo Grammaiicv.s. 
Translated by Oliver Elton (ed. by F. York Powell, p. 5). It is not 
clear whether Saxo had Icelandic manuscripts before him, but his 
words leave no doubt that he was aware of the fact that stories 
had been carried on by oral tradition. 


attested by Sturlunga Saga. Here we are told that when 
Sturla visited King Magnus* court at Bergen in 1263 the 
king received him coldly, but afterwards allowed him to 
accompany the royal party on a voyage to the south of 
Norway. In the evening one of the sailors asked if there 
was anyone among them who could tell stories, but he 
received no answer. He turned to Sturla, " Sturla, the 
Icelander, will you entertain us ? " " Willingly,'* said 
Sturla. Then he related the story of Huld^ better and 
with much more detail than any of those present had ever 
heard it told before. Then many men made their way to 
the deck so as to hear as clearly as possible, and there was 
a great crowd there. The queen asked : " What is that 
crowd on the deck ? " A man answered, " Men who are 
hstening to the tale the Icelander is telHng." " What 
story is that ? '' she asked. " It is about a great giantess ; 
it is a good story and well told." On the following day the 
queen sent for Sturla and asked him to come and bring 
with him the saga of the giantess.* So Sturla went aft to 
the quarterdeck and told the story over again. When he 
had j&nished, the queen and many of the Hsteners thanked 
him and took him to be a learned and wise man.^ 

A much earlier reference to the recitation, and indeed 
the composition of sagas is found in Thorgils Saga ok 
Haflitha, in which there is an account of a wedding-feast 
at Reykholar in 1119 : 

" There was fun and merriment and great festivity, and 

1 This was probabh^ something in the nature of a fairy-tale like the 
Huldre-eventyr of modern Norway. We may refer to the story of the 
witch Huldr given in Ynglinga Saga (ch. 16), and to the supernatural 
being Hold a or Holle in German folk-lore. 

2 " hafa meih sey tyvllkomi-susuna," From these words Finnur 
Jonsson [op. cit., II., p. 792) concludes that Sturla possessed a written 
copy of the saga. 

^Sturlunga Saga, 11., pp. 270-271. 


all kinds of amusements, such as dancing, wrestling and 
story-telling. . . . Hrolfr of Skalmarnes told a story about 
Hrongvithr the Viking, and Olaf ' the sailor's king,' and 
about the rifling of the barrow of Thrainn the berserkr, 
and about Hromundr Gripsson, and he included many 
verses in his story. King Sverrir used to be entertained 
with this story, and he declared that fictitious stories Hke 
these were the most entertaining of any ; and yet there are 
men who can trace their ancestry to Hromundr Gripsson. 
Hrolfr had put this saga together. Ingimundr the priest 
told the story of Ormr, the poet of Barrey and included 
many verses in it, besides a good poem which Ingimundr 
had composed, therefore many learned men regard this 
saga as true."^ 

The former of these stories is the Hromundr a Saga which 
belongs to the class commonly called Fornaldar Sogur.* 

Still further back in the reign of Harald Hardradith (1047- 
1066) we have a most important allusion to the art of story- 
telling. According to the saga^ a young Icelander came one 
summer to King Harald seeking his protection. The king 
received him into his court on the understanding that he 
should entertain the household during the winter. He soon 
became very popular, and received gifts from members 
of the household and from the king himself. Just before 
Christmas the king noticed that the Icelander seemed 
dejected, and he asked the reason. The Icelander replied 
that it was because of his ' uncertain temper.' 

" That is not so," said the king. ..." I think your stock 
of sagas must be exhausted, because you have entertained 
us all through the winter, whenever 3^ou were called upon 

^Tkorgtl's Saga ok Haflitha {Siurhtnga Saga, Vol. I., p. 19). 
^Fornaldar Soguy, Vol. II., p. 323. 

^ Harald' s Hardrada Saga, cli. 99 {Fornmavnn Sogur, VI., pp. 


to do so. Now you are worried because your sagas have 
come to an end at Christmas time, and you do not wish to 
tell the same over again." 

" You have guessed rightly," said the Icelander. " I 
know only one more saga, but I dare not tell it here, because 
it is the story of your adventures abroad." 

" That is the saga I particularly want to hear," said 
the king, and he asked the Icelander to begin it on Christmas 
Day and tell a part of it every day. During the Christmas 
season there was a good deal of discussion about the enter- 
tainment. Some said it was presumption on the part of 
the Icelander to tell the saga and they wondered how the 
king would Hke it ; others thought it was well told, but others 
again thought less of it. When the saga was finished, the 
king, who had listened attentively throughout, turned to 
the storyteller and said : " Are 3'ou not curious to know, 
Icelander, how I Hke the saga ? " 

" I am afraid to ask," repHed the stor5^eller. 

The king said : " I think you have told it very well. 
Where did you get the material for it, and who taught it 
to you ? " 

The Icelander answered : " When in Iceland I used to 
go every summer to the Thing, and each summer I learned 
a portion of the saga from Halldor Snorrason." 

" Then it is not surprising that you know it so well, 
since you have learned it from him," said the king. 

We may in fact see the origin of the Islendinga So gar 
in certain passages of the sagas themselves. In Fostbroethra 
Saga, for instance, the story is told of an Icelander named 
Thormothr, who went to Greenland in order to avenge the 
death of bis foster-brother Thorgeirr. On one occasion he 
fell asleep in his booth, and when he awoke some time later 
he found, to his surprise, that the place was quite deserted. 
Then his sei-vant Egill " the fooUsh " came to him and 


said : " You are too far off from a great entertainment." 

Thormothr asked : " Where have you come from and 
what is the entertainment ? " 

Egill replied : " I have been to Thorgrimr Einarsson's 
booth and most of the people who are attending the Thing 
are there now." 

Thormothr asked : " What form of amusement have 
they ? " 

Egill answered : " Thorgrimr is telHng a saga." 

" About whom is the saga ? " asked Thormothr. 

" That I do not know clearly," repHed Egill, " but I 
know that he tells it well and in an interesting manner. He 
is sitting on a chair outside his booth and the people are all 
around him listening to the saga." 

Thormothr said : " But 3^ou must know the name of 
some man who is mentioned in the saga, especially since 
you think it so entertaining." 

Egill repHed : " A certain Thorgeirr was a great hero in 
the saga, and I think that Thorgrimr himself must have 
had some connection with it, and played a brave part in 
it, as is most Hkely. I wish you would go there and Hsten 
to the entertainment." 1 

Then Thormothr and Egill went to Thorgrimr's booth 
and stood close by Hstening to the saga, but they could not 
hear it very distinctly. Thormothr had, however, under- 
stood from Egill's remarks that this was the same 
Thorgrimr who had slain his foster-brother and was now 
recounting his exploits for the amusement of the crowd. 

More famous is the scene in Njdls Saga where Gunnar 
Lambi's son, who has just arrived at Earl Sigurthr's palace 
iu the Orkneys is called upon to tell the story of the 
burning of Nj all's homestead. 

^Fostbroethra Saga, ch. 23. 


" The men were so pleased that King Sigtryggr [of Dublin] 
sat on a high seat in the middle, but on either side of the 
king sat one of the earls. . . . Now King Sitr^^ggr and Earl 
Gille wished to hear of these tidings which had happened 
at the burning, and so, also, what had befallen since. 

Then Gunnarr Lambi's son, who had taken part in the 
burning was got to tell the tale, and a stool was set for him 
to sit upon. 

. . . Now King Sigtryggr asked : " How did Skarphethinn 
bear the burning ? " 

" Well at first for a long time," said Gunnarr, " but still 
the end of it was that he wept." And so he went on giving 
an unfair bias to his story, but every now and then he 
laughed aloud. 

Kari (Kj all's friend who was Ustening outside) could 
not stand this and he then ran in with his sword drawn . . . 
and smote Gunnarr Lambi's son on the neck with such a 
smart blow that liis head spun off on to the board before 
the king and the earls. 

"... Now Flosi undertook to tell the story of the Burning 
and he was fair to all, and therefore what he said was 
believed." 1 

For the way in which such stories were preserved from 
generation to generation we may refer to the end of 
Droplaiigarsona Saga (Ljosvetninga) : " Thorvaldr (born c. 
1006) son of Grimr " — one of the chief actors in the story — 
" had a son called Ingjaldr. His son was named Thoi-valdr, 
and he it was who told the story." ^ 

The passagee quoted from Njdla Saga and Fostbroethra 
Saga seem to show that the art of story-telling was already 
developed at the beginning of the eleventh centur3^ In these 

^NjdlsSaga (by G. W. Daseut), cli.j. 153, 154. 

^Droplatigarsona Saga (Ljosvetuiuga Saga), p. 175 [AusifiyLhinga 
Soguy, ed. Jakobseu). 


instances, it is true, we have only the records of events given 
by the actors themselves or by eyewitnesses, and we cannot 
be certain that such stories had assumed anything like a 
fixed form. Far more important is the passage from Haralds 
Saga Hardrada,'^ for there the story-teller was not an eye- 
witness, but had obtained the story, or the material for it, 
from Halldor Snorrason, an Icelandic follower of King 
Harald. From what is said about the length of the saga, 
there can be no doubt that it had been worked up in a 
very elaborate way. For such elaborate secondhand stories 
we have no other definite evidence, but again, considering 
the time which the recital is said to have occupied, it would 
be unwise to conclude that this later form of the art was 
entirely new. 

We have, therefore, clearly to distinguish two stages in 
the history of the oral saga ; (i) the story as told by some- 
one who had taken part in the events described ; (ii) the 
secondhand story. The story was soon embellished, especially 
in the second stage, not merely with such devices as the 
records of conversation, but even by the introduction of 
imaginary adventures. Indeed we need not assume that 
even in the first stage the stories were told in strict 
accordance with fact. Reference may be made, for instance, 
to the passage quoted above from Njdls Saga, where 
Gunnarr Lambi's son is said to have told the story of the 
burning unfairly. Even in the Islendinga and Konunga 
Sogur fiction forms a not inconsiderable element : in the 
Fornaldar Sogur it is ovbiously much greater. 

Yet there is good reason for beheving that in the main 
the Islendinga and Kominga Sogur are historical. This 
may be seen by the general agreement between the various 

^ See pp. Oo, Oi, ante. 


sagas, since the same characters constantly reappear, and 
there is little inconsistency with regard to their circumstances 
or personal traits. Again, the description of houses, ships, 
weapons, and other articles seems generally to correspond 
to those known to date from the period to which the stories 
refer. There is, moreover, one feature which points to a 
more or less fixed tradition dating from the closing years 
of the tenth century, namely, the attitude towards those 
characters who figured prominently in the struggle between 
Christianity and heathenism. Thus there are indications 
that the rather unsympathetic representation of Harold 
Greycloak and his brothers may be due to the fact that they 
were Christians. Still more significant is the attitude of 
the sagas towards Haakon the Bad, whose character seems 
to undergo a great change — probably a reflection of the 
change in the popular oi:)inion of Christianity. 

Sagas like those of Egill and Kormak relating to the 
middle or first part of the twelfth century are few in number 
and usually contain a considerable amount of poetry ; in 
fact, the prose is not infrequently based upon the poetry. 
Stories deaHng with early Icelandic history from a.d. 874 
onwards and Norwegian history of the same period are much 
less full. In general the^^ appear to be trustworthy, but 
the details are such as might have been preserved by local 
or family tradition without the special faculty which is 
characteristic of the sagas. 

Of a totally different character are the sagas relating to 
times before the settlement of Iceland (a.d. 874). Some 
of these, such as Volstinga Saga and Hervarar Saga, deal 
with events as far back as the fifth century, and are, to a 
great extent, paraphrases of poems, many of which have 
come down to us. Very frequently, too, whether based on 
poems or not, the narrative bears the stamp of fiction. ^ 

* Cf . the references to Hromundar Sa§a, pp. 69, 70, ante. 


Conditions in Iceland were especially favourable to the 
development of the art of story-telHng, owing partly to the 
isolated position of the country itself and to the difficulties 
of communication across the wide tracts of land separating 
the various settlements within it, partly also to the love of 
travel which characterised its inhabitants. In Icelandic 
literature the recital of stories is mentioned in connection 
with public meetings — such as the annual general assembly 
[Althingi) — and with social gatherings at the "winter- 
nights," the chief season for hospitaUty in Iceland, when 
travellers had returned from abroad. 

The Icelanders were famous, too, for the cultivation of 
poetry. This art was evidently much practised in Norway 
in early times, but we hear of hardly any Norwegian poets 
after B3^vindr (c. 980), whereas in Iceland poetry flourished 
for a considerable period after this. Icelandic poets were 
received with favour not onl}^ in Norway, but elsewhere, 
for instance, in England and Ireland. It has been stated 
that sagas dealing with the early part of the tenth century 
owe a good deal to poetry, while stories relating to times 
earlier than the settlement of Iceland are often almost 
entirely dependent on poetic sources. Moreover, the culti- 
vation of poetry probably contributed very largel}^ to the 
development of the facult^^ of story-telUng, and the two 
arts may have been practised by the same person. On this 
point, however, we have no precise information. 


Yet the remarkable fact that this faculty of story-telling 
was peculiar to the Icelanders alone among the Teutonic 
peoples still remains to be explained. It can hardly be 
w^ithout significance that the only parallel in Europe for 
such a form of Hterature is to be found in Ireland. 

From the allusions to this type of composition in old 


Irish literature it would seem to have existed at a very- 
early period ; so early, that its very origin is obscure. There 
is, for example, mention of a king's " compan}^ of story 
telleis " in the eight lines of satirical verse, said to have 
been composed by the poet Cairbre on Bress, the niggardl}" 
king of the Formorians.^ 

Stor^^-telhng was one of the many attractions of the great 
aonachs or fairs which plaj^ed the same part in the national 
life of Ireland as the things or popular assemblies in Iceland. 
From the poem on the ancient fair of Carman preserved 
in the Book of Ballymote, we can form an idea of the enter- 
tainment provided by the professional storj'-teller : — 

" The tales of Fianna of Erin, a never- wearying enter- 
tainment : stories of destructions, cattle-preys, courtships, 
rhapsodies, battle-odes, royal precepts and the truthfid 
instructions of Fithil the sage : the wide precepts of Coirfic 
and Cormac."^ 

The Book of Leinster states that the poet who had 

^ The poem, is preserved in the Book of the Dun Cow (twelfth 
century), but the form of the language in which it is written is 
considerably earlier than this date ; indeed, the meaning of the 
verses would be quite obscure if we did not possess explanatory 

Cf. D'Arbois de Jubainville : The Irish Mythological Cycle, p. 06 
(Best's translation) : also D. Hyde : A Liierarv History of Ireland, 
p. 285. 

There is a possible reference to an Irish storyteller in an inscription 
'on a stone cross at Bridgend (Glamorganshire). The inscription, 
which is thought to date from the seventh century, runs : — ( Co)nhellim 
possuit hanc CYucem pro anima eiiis Scitliuissi . . . Rh5's takes 
scitlivissi to be an Irish word, a compound oiviss {Ir.fis, ' knowledge ') 
and scitl {section , seel, a ' storj-,' ' news ') and surmises that 
scitliviss might mean a ' messenger/ a ' bringer of news,' a * scout.' 
(Cf. Celtic Britain, pp. 313-315.) But scitliviss can also be explained 
as ' one who knows stories." In that case we might infer that story- 
telling was a profession in Ireland as early as the .seventh century ; 
but the reading appears to be too uncertain to justify us in attaching 
any great importance to the inscription. 

2 O'Curry ; ManngYS and Customs of the Ancient Irish. II., p. 543. 


attained the rank of ollamh was bound to know for recital 
to kings and chieftains two hundred and fifty tales of prime 
importance (prim-scela), and one hundred secondary ones.^ 
The same source gives the names of one hundred and 
eighty-seven of these tales, the majority of which have not 
come down to us. These include stories from the three 
great cycles of legend, \dz., that relating to the gods ; to 
Cuchulain and the warriors of the Red Branch, and to Finn 
and Fianna. A number of stories relating to the kings of 
Ireland mentioned in this Hst have an historical basis ; 
while there are others purporting to deal with kings as far 
back as looo B.C., which are no doubt partly imaginary, 
and w^ere invented to arouse popular interest in the past 
history of the country. 

We know of several stories and poems about kings and 
chieftains who played a prominent part in the wars against 
the Vikings. The list in The Book of Leinster mentions 
only one. The Love of Gormflaith for Niall (i.e., Niall 
Glundubh (d. 919), a summary of which is contained in 
the mediaeval English translation of The Annals of 
Clonmacnois. In the case of The Victorious Career of 
Cellachan of Cashel, it is difficult to say whether this was 
originally an oral narrative committed to writing for the 
first time in the fifteenth century, or whether it was copied 
from an older manuscript, now lost. Brian Borumha and 
liis sons are the principal characters in The Leeching of 
Cian's Leg, a tale preserved in a sixteenth century manu- 
script. 2 It is interesting to note here the presence of a 

1 O'Curry : Lectures on the MS. Materials of Irish History, pp. 243, 

2 Printed in Silva Gadelica (ed. Standisli O'Grady), Vol. I., pp. 

Stories of Brian and his sons are still current in the Gaehc-speakiug 
districts of Ireland. (See Zeitschrift fUr Celtische Philologie, Band I.. 
pp. 477-492.) They are, however, more likely to be folk tales, in 


strong folk element which would seem to point towards 
a popular, not a literary origin. 

At the close of the tenth century story-telling was in 
high favour in Ireland, and the professional storj^-teller 
was able not onh' to recite any one of the great historical 
tales, but to improvise, if the occasion arose. Mac Coisse, 
the poet attached to the court of Maelsechnaill II., tells 
in an interesting prose work how his castle at Clartha (Co. 
Westmeath) was once plundered by the O'Neills of Ulster. 
He immediately set out for Aileach in order to obtain 
compensation from the head of the clan. King Domhnall 
O'Neill (d. 978). On his arrival, he was received with great 
honour and brought into the king's presence. In response 
to Domhnall's request for a story, Mac Coisse mentioned 
the names of a large number of tales including one called 
The Plunder of the Castle of Maelmilscotach. This was the 
only one with which the king was unfamiliar, so he asked 
the stor3rteller to relate it. In it Mac Coisse described, 
under the form of an allegory, the plundering of his castle 
by the king's kinsmen. When he had finished he confessed 
that he himself was Maelmilscotach^, and he begged the 
king to grant him full restitution of his property. This 
the king agreed to do, and the grateful poet then recited 
a poem of eighteen stanzas which he had composed about 
the king and his family. ^ 

which the deeds of mythical heroes have been transferred to historical 
people, than sagas transmitted by oral tradition from generation to 

"^i.e., "son of the honeyed words," a poet. 

■ O'Curry : Manners and Customs of ths Ancient Irish, II., pp. 



The resemblance which we have noted between Icelandic 
and Irish customs seem to justify us in suggesting that they 
may be due in part to some influence exercised by the one 
people upon the other. There is in fact a certain amount 
of evidence which renders such influence probable. We 
know that Irish poets and storytellers were welcome guests 
at the court of the Scandinavian kings in Ireland. In an 
elegy on Mathgamain, Brian's brother, i one of the Munster 
bards, says he finds it difficult to reproach the foreigners 
because of his friendship with Dubhcena, Ivarr's son.* 
And during the Hfetime of Brian, Mac Iviag, Brian's chief 
poet, and Mac Coisse, poet and storyteller to Maelsechnaill 
II., visited the court of Sigtryggr and remained there for 
a whole year. On their departure they gave expression 
to their feeHngs of regret in a poetical dialogue : — 

Mac Liag : It is time for us to return to our homes, 
We have been here a whole year ; 
Though short to you and me may seem 
This our sojourn in Dublin, 
Brian of Banba deems it too long 
That he Hstens not to my eloquence.* 

Another poem of Mac Liag's, in which he addresses the 
Scandinavians of Dublin as " the descendants of the 
warriors of Norway," was also composed in Dublin, at the 
court of ' Olaf of the golden shields,' soon after the battle 
of Clontarf.* 

^ Mathgamain was murdered at the instigation of King Ivarr of 
Limerick in 976. 

*War of the Gaedkil with the Gaill, pp. 98-99. 

*0'Curry, op. cit., II., p. 128 

* Ibid., II., p. 125. 


On the other hand Icelandic sources mention at least 
three skdlds who made their way to Ireland during the 
tenth century : Thorgils Orraskald, " who was with Olaf 
Cuaran in Dubhn,^ and Kormak (Ir. Cormac) who fought 
with Harold Greycloak in Ireland (c. 961). ^ In Gimnlaugs 
Saga Ormstungu (ch. 8) there is a charming account of the 
poet's reception in Dublin, shortly after Sigtryggr became 
king (c. 994) : Gunnlaug went before the king and said : 
" I have composed a poem about you, and I would Hke to 
get a hearing for it." 

The king answered : " No man has yet made a poem about 
me, and I will certainly Hsten to yours." 

Then Gunnlaug recited his poem in praise of " Cuaran's 
son," and the king thanked him for it. 

Sigtryggr then called his treasurer and asked : " How 
shall I reward him for this poem ? " 

" As you will, lord," replied the treasurer. 

" Shall I give him two merchant-ships ? " asked the 

" That is too much," said the treasurer, " other kings 
give, as rewards for songs, costly gifts, good swords or 
gold rings." 

So the king gave Gunnlaug his own garments of new 
scarlet cloth, a tunic ornamented with lace, a cloak lined 
with choice furs, and a gold ring which weighed a mark. 
Gunnlaug remained for a short time there and then went 
to the Orkneys. 

It is to be noted, too, that among the original settlers 
in Iceland there were a not inconsiderable number who 
came from Ireland and the islands off the west coast of 
Scotland. These included some of the most important 

^ Landndmabok , I., ch. 19. 
^ Kormak' s Saga, ch. 19. 


families in the country. We may mention especially Authr, 
widow of Olaf the White, king of Dublin, with her brothers 
Ketill the Foolish, Bjom, Helgi Bjola and all their families 
and dependants ;^ also Helgi the Lean who had been 
brought up partly in the Hebrides, partly in Ireland, 
Jorundr the Christian and Orlygr the Old.^ Not a few of 
these were partly of Irish stock such as Helgi the Lean, 
Askell Hnokkan and his brother Vilbaldr who were descen- 
dants of Cearbhall, king of Ossory (d. 877). ^ Sometimes we 
heal of settlers who were of pure GaeHc blood, Hke Kalman 
(Ir. Colman) from the Hebrides,* and Erpr, son of a Scottish 
earl Maelduin,^ and Myrgjol (Ir. Muirgheal), daughter of 
GHomall, an Irish king.* 

It has been urged ^ that the persons mentioned in the 
Landndmabdk as coming from Ireland and Scotland form a 
very small percentage of the whole number of settlers. 
But we have to remember that by no means all the colonists 
are mentioned in the records and genealogies. There can be 
no doubt that a number of slaves and f reedmen accompanied 
the more important settlers to Iceland, and of these probably 
the great majority were of Celtic blood. Their numbers, too, 
were being continually reinforced during the tenth century. 
It is difficult, however, to estimate how many they were, 
because in the case of thralls Icelandic names were not 
infrequently substituted for Irish ones. Thus, of the Irish 
thralls whom Hjorleifr brought to Iceland only one, 
Dufthakr, had a Gaelic name. 

1 Cf. Landndmabdk, II., ch. 16, etc. 
^Landndmabdk, V., ch. 15. 
8/6.. IV., ch. II. 
*Ib., II.. ch. I. 
6/6.. IL, ch. 16. 
« lb., II., ch. 16. 

' Finnur Jonsson, op. cit., II., pp. 187-188 (n) ; W. A. Craigie : 
Zeitschrift fur Celtische Philologie, Band I., p. 441. 


Such slaves were not always people of humble origin. 
Gilli (Ir. GioUa), the slave who killed Thorsteinn, son of 
Hallr^ of Side, was a descendant of Cearbhall, king of Ossory. 
Mention is made elsewhere of Nithbjorg, daughter of the 
Irish king Biolan (Ir. Beollan) who was carried off from 
Ireland in a Viking raid ;2 also of Melkorka, King 
Myrkjartan's daughter, who was bought from a slave 
dealer in Norway. ^ Icelandic custom did not necessarily 
prevent the children of slave women from becoming persons 
of wealth and influence ; indeed Osvifr, son of Nithbjorg 
and Olaf Pai, son of Melkorka, were among the leading 
men in Iceland in their time. It is not unreasonable, then, 
to suppose that by the end of the tenth century Irish blood 
had found its way into a large number of Icelandic famihes. 

Lastly we may observe that the Irish and Icelandic 
sagas bear certain resemblances to one another which are 
at least worthy of attention. In both cases the narrative 
prose is frequently interspersed with poetry, and in both 
the use of dialogue is a prominent feature. Nor is the subject 
matter dissimilar. Indeed it is possible to apply to the Irish 
stories a classification roughly similar to that which is 
adopted for the more important of the Icelandic sagas.* 
As far as the " stories of the kings " are concerned, the 
resemblance is most striking in the case of sagas relating 
to early times such as Ynglinga Saga. There are Irish 
stories, too, corresponding to a certain extent to the 
Islendinga Sogur, though they are comparatively few in 

^ " This Gilli was the son of Jathguth, who was the son of Gilli, 
son of Bjathach (Ir. Blathach), son of King Kjarval of Ireland." 
( Thovsten's Saga Sithu — Hallssonay, appendix. ' Draumr Thorsieins 
Siduhalssonar, Asmundarson's Kd., pp. 26, 27. 

^Landmmabok, II., ch. 11. 

3 Cf. p. ante. 

* Cf . p. 66, ante. 


number, while many of the Fornaldar Sogar may be said 
to bear a certain resemblance to the Irish epic stories. 

The evidence discussed above seems to afford some ground 
for suspecting that the saga Hterature of Iceland and 
Ireland may not be wholly unconnected, and, as we have 
seen, the conditions of the time, particularly the frequent 
intercourse between the two countries, were such as to 
favour the exercise of hterary influence by one people upon 
the other. If so, one can hardly doubt that in this case the 
influence came to Iceland from Ireland. 

We have seen^ that the prose saga appears to have 
developed in Iceland in the course of the tenth century. 
There are indeed narratives relating both to the settlement 
of Iceland and to still earlier events in Norway. But these, 
in so far as they can be regarded as trustworthy traditions — 
not embellished by fiction in later times — are quite brief, 
and not far removed from such local or family traditions 
as one could find in other parts of the world. The detailed 
and elaborate type of story which we dealt with in Section I., 
and which is the distinctive feature of Icelandic literature, 
can hardly be traced back beyond the end of the tenth 

The prose stories of Ireland, on the other hand, are without 
doubt much earlier. Although we have few MSS. of Irish 
prose dating from a period before the twelfth century, 
yet it is generally agreed that many of the forms preserved, 
e.g., in the Yellow Book of Lecan MS. of the Tain Bo Cualnge 
must be derived from an earher MS. of not later than the 
seventh or early eighth century. The oral saga in Ireland 
is therefore of great antiquity. 

It may, of course, be argued that if the prose saga arose 
spontaneously in Ireland, there is no reason why it should 

1 Cf. p. 63 ante. 


not also have arisen independently in Iceland. But the 
existence of this form of literature in Ireland may be due 
to special circumstances for which Iceland offers no parallel. 
The oldest Irish sagas belong to that class of Hterature 
known as the heroic epic, a class which among the Teutonic 
peoples — as indeed among all other European peoples — 
makes its first appearance in verse. The exceptional treat- 
ment of this subject in Irish is all the more remarkable in 
view of the fact that among the Celtic peoples the file or 
professional minstrel occupied a distinguished position in 
society. It would be strange if the professional minstrel were 
not primarily concerned with herqic epic poetr}' in Ireland 
as in other countries, since in the times to which our records 
refer the recitation of the heroic prose epics was one of the 
chief functions of the file. 

On the other hand, we know nothing of the ancient forms 
of Irish poetry. The earliest poems that have come down to 
us have a metrical form which is not native. EarHer than 
these — ^in the fifth and sixth centuries — ^there is evidence 
for the cultivation of " rhetorics," or metrical prose, but 
this too appears to be of foreign origin. ^ The unique feature 
in Irish hterature, namely, the fact that the earl}^ epic, as 
it has come down to us, appears in prose instead of poetry 
may be due, at least in part, to the disappearance of native 
metrical forms before the fifth centur3^ It may be that the 
prose epics originated in paraphrases of early poems such 
as we find, for instance, in the Volsunga Saga, which is a 
paraphrase of older poems deahng with the story of Sigurthr. 
Or the change may have been more automatic, the outcome 
of a process of metrical dissolution similar to that of which 
the beginnings may be seen in certain Anglo-Saxon and 
German poems. Such metrical dissolution would be favoured, 

*See Kuno Meyer : Learning in Ireland in the Fifth Century 
(Dublin, 191 3). 


if not necessitated, by the extensive phonetic changes 
which took place in Ireland in the fifth century. But into 
this question it is not necessary to enter here. It is sufficient 
to point out that Irish Saga literature, according to all 
appearances, began in the heroic epic, a form which in all 
other literatures, including Norse, originated in poetry. 

The preservation of poetry, narrative or other, by oral 
tradition is a common enough phenomenon among many 
peoples, but the traditional prose narrative, except in such 
primitive forms as folk-tales, is very rare. Since we find 
it both in Ireland and Iceland — and apparently in no other 
European countries — and since we have found so many 
other connections between these two countries, the theory 
that the Icelandic Saga owes its origin, however indirectly, 
to the Irish Saga, seems to deserve more serious consideration 
from scholars than it has yet received. 



Annals of Clonmacnois, ed. by Rev. D. J. Murphy. Dublin, 1896. 
Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters (Vols. I. and 

II.), ed. by J. O'Donovan, Dublin, 1856. 
Three Fragments of Irish Annals, ed. by J. O'Donovan. Dublin, 

Annals of Tigernach, ed. by Whitley Stokes (Revue Celtique, XVI.; 

XVII.). Paris, 1895. 
Annals of Ulster (Vol. I.); ed. by W. M. Hennessy. Dublin, 1887. 
Black Book of Limerick, ed. by J. MacCaffrey. Dublin, 1907. 
Book of Rights (Leabhar na gceart), ed. by J. O'Donovan. Dublin, 

Brennu-Njdlssaga, ed. by Finnur J6nsson. Halle a S., 1908. 
The Story of Burnt Njal, translated by Sir G. W. Dasent. London, 


(Several subsequent editions.) 

Caithriim Cellachain Caisil : The Victorious Career of Cellachan of 

Cashel, ed. by A. Bugge. Christiania, 1905. 
Chronicon Scotorum, ed. by W. M. Hennessy. London, 1866. 
Cogadh Gaedheal re Gallaibh ( The War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill) 
ed. by J. H. Todd. London, 1867. 

Eyrhyggja Saga, ed. by H. Gering. Halle a S., 1897. 

(English translation by E. Magniisson and William Morris, 
London, 1892). 
Fornaldar Sogtiv, ed. by C. C. Rafn. Copenhagen, 1829-30. 
Fornmanna Sogur. Copenhagen, 1825-1837. 
Fdstbroethra Saga, ed. by V. Asmundarson, Reykjavik, 1899. 
Gunnlaugs Saga Ormstungu, ed. by V. Asmundarson. Reykjavik, 

Heimskringla, ed. by C. R. linger. Christiania, 1868. 
Kormaks Saga, ed. by V. Asmundarson. Reykjavik, 1893. 
Landndmabok. ed. by V. Asmundarson. Reykjavik, 1909. 

(Enghsh translation by Rev. T. KUwood. Kendal, 1898.) 




On the Fomorians and the Norsemen (Duald Mac Firbis), ed. by 

A. Bugge. Christiania, 1905. 
Origines Islandicae, ed. by G. Vigfusson and F. York Powell. 

Oxford, 1905. 
Orkneyinga Saga, ed. and tr. by J. Anderson. Edinburgh, 1873. 

Also tr. by Sir G. W. Dasent for the Rolls Series. London, 1894. 
Stiirlunga Saga, ed. by G. Vigfusson. Oxford, 1878. 
Thorsteins Saga Siihu-Hallssonar, ed. by V. Asmundarson. 

Reykjavik, 1902. 
Two of the Saxon Chronicles (Parallel), 2 Vols., ed. by Earle and 

Plummer. Oxford, 1892 and 1899. 

Bugge, A. 

CoUingwood, W. G. 
Craigie, W. A. 
Du Chaillu, P. B. 
Henderson, G. 

J6nsson, F. ... 

Joyce, P. W. 

Keary, C. F. 

Kermode, P. M. C. 
Marstrander, C. 

Mawer, A. 
Mogk, B. 

O'Ciury, E. ... 


Contributions to the History of the Norsemen 
in Ireland. Christiania, 1900. 

Vesterlandenes Indflydelse paa Nordboernes 
i Vikingetiden. Christiania, 1905. 

Scandinavian Britain. London, 1908. 

The Icelandic Sagas. Cambridge, 1913. 

The Viking Age, 2 Vols. London, 1889. 

The Norse Influence on Celtic Scotland. 

Glasgow, 19 10. 
Old Nor she Litteraturs Historie, also 

(abridged). Copenhagen, 1907. 
A Social History of Ancient Ireland, 

2 Vols. Dublin, 191 3. 
The Vikings in Western Christendom. 

London, 1891. 
Manx Crosses. London, 1907. 

Bidrag til det Norske Sprogs Historie i 

Irland. Christiania, 191 2. 
The Vikings. Cambridge, 191 3. 
Geschichte der Norwegisch-Isldndischen 

Literatur. Strassburg, 1904. 
On the Manners and Customs of the Ancient 
Irish (ed. by W. K. SuUivan). London, 1873. 
Lectures on the Manuscript Materials of 

Ancient Irish History. Dublin. 1861. 



Steenstrup, J.C. H. R 

Stokes, G. T. 

Vogt, L. J 

Normannerne (Vols. II. and III.). Copen- 
hagen, 1876-82. 

Ireland and the Celtic Church (revised by 
H. J. Lawlor). London. 1907. 

Dublin som Norsk By. Christiania, 1896. 

The Whole Works of Sir James Ware concerning Ireland, 2 Vols, 
(translated and continued by W. Harris). JDublin, 1764. 

Worsaae, J. J. A. ... Minder om de Danske og Nordmaendene i 
England, Skotland og Irland. Copen- 
hagen, 1 85 1. 

(EngHsh translation: An Account of the Danes and Norwegians in 
England, Scotland and Ireland. London, 1852.) 

Zimmer, H. ... ... The Celtic Church in Britain and Ireland, 

(translated by A. Meyer). London, 1902. 

Reference has also been made to the following articles : — 

Bugge, A. ., 

Craigie, W. A 
Curtis, B. 

Hull, E. 

Mawer, A. 
Stokes, W. 

Zimmer, H. 

Nordisk Sprog og Nordisk Nationalitet i 
Irland (Aarboger for Nordisk Old- 
kyndighed og Historie, 1900, pp. 279-332). 

Bidrag Bidet Sidste Afsnit af Nordboernes 
Historie i Irland ibid., 1904. pp. 248-315. 

Oldnordiske Ord i de Gaeliske Sprog (Archiv 
for Nordisk Filologi. 1894.) 

The English and the Ostmen in Ireland 
(English Historical Review, XXIII., p. 
209 ff.) 

Irish Episodes in Icelandic Literature (Saga 
Book of the Viking Club. January, 1903.) 

The Gael and the Gall : Notes on the Social 
Condition of Ireland during the Norse 
Period. {Ibid. April, 1908.) 

The Scandinavian Kingdom of Northumbria. 
Ibid. January, 191 1. 

A few Parallels between the Old Norse and 
the Irish Literatures and Traditions (Arkiv 
for Nordisk Filologi. 1885.) 

Ueber die friihesien Beriihrungen der Iren 
init den Nordgermanen. (Sitzungsberichte 
der Kgl. Preussichen Akademie der 
Wissenschaften, Bd. I., pp. 279-317. 
Berlin, 1891.) 



Aedh Finnliath, 10, 15. 

Albann, brother of Ivarr the Boneless, 4. 

Albdann. son of Gothfrith, 22 n. 

Altar-ring, 53, 54. 

aonach, 30, 67. 

Armagh, 21-22, 48, 52, 55. 

Art, Scandinavian influence on Irish, 20. 

Authr, wife of Olaf the White, 15, 48, 72 ; \vife of Turgeis, 47. 

Brian Borumha, 7-8, 29, 37-38. 
Brunanburh, battle of, 6, 24. 
Burial moimds, 12. 

Canterbury, 55-56. 

Carlingford I/)ugh, battle of, 3. 13, 50-51. 

Cearbhall, king of Ossory, 13-15, 50, 72, 73. 

Cellachan, king of Cashel, 26, 36-37. 

Chester, siege of, 12, 

Clontarf, battle of, 8-9, 54. 

Colla, 25. 

Cork, 27, 30. 

Danes, 2-4, 12, 13, 24-27, 50-1. 

dom-hvingy, 53-4. 

Dublin, fortress built at, 2 ; seat of Scandinavian kings, 3, 5-7 ; 

Vikings driven from, 5 ; coins minted in, 19 ; early history, 

21-3; as a trade centre, 30-1, 70-1. 

epscop, 29. 

Kric Blood-axe, 7. 

Fingal, 8. 
Finn Gaill. 3 n. 


GaiU-Gaedhil, 10-11, 38. 

gelt, 44. 

Gleann Mama, battle of, 8, 30, 54. 

Glttniarainn, 17-8. 

Gnimcinnsiolla, 27. 

Gormflaith, wife of Brian Borumha, 8, 17, 54 ; wife of Niall 

Glundubh, m. 
Gothfrith, king of Dublin, 6, 24. 

Heathenism, 47-8. 50-4. 
Hebrides, 17, 25, 36, 41 «., 48-9. 

Iceland, 13 w., 8, 57-8, QQ, 71. 

Ivarr the boneless, 3-4, 11, 48 ; king of Hmerick, 7, 24, 70 n., 
king of Waterford, 18. 

Ketill Flatnose, 48-9; KetUl " the fooHsh," 49, 72. 
Kilmashogue, battle of, 5. 

lagmainn, 41. 

Lambey, 1. 

Limerick, 7, 9, 23-5, 30-1. 

longphort, 2, 34, 35. 

Mac liag, 70 

Maelsechnaill I (Malachy), 2, 11 ; Maelsechnafli H, 7-8, 17, 70, 

Melkorka, 16. 31, 73. 

Morann, son of the king of I^ewis, 25. 

Mnirchertach of the I^eather Cloaks, 6, 16-7, 

Niall Glundubh, 5, 68. 
Norsemen, passim. 
Northumbria, 5-7. 
Norway, 4, 16, 32, 59. 

Olaf Cuaran (Sihtricsson), 6-7, 17, 34, 40, 53, 71 ; Godfreyson, 
6, 26 ; Olaf the White. 3-4, 11-2, 15, 48 ; Tryg\asson, 13-4. 
Ostmen, 9, 26. 
Ota, wife of Turgeis, 2, 47, 


Place-names, Scandinavian influence on Irish, 27-8 ; Irish 

influence on Icelandic, 45-6. 
prime-signing, 75. 

Raghnall, grandson of Ivarr, 5, 25. 
Runic inscriptions, 27 n., 51-2. 

Settlers in Iceland, 13 w., 71, 72. 

Sihtric Silken Beard, 8, 19, 34, 54-5, 70. 

Sigurd, earl of Orkney, 8, 15 n. 

Slave traffic, 32-3, 72-3. 

Story-telling in Iceland, 58-64 ; in Ireland, 67-9. 

Sulcoit, battle of, 7. 

Tengmoiith, 22 n. 
thing, 22, 61, 67. 
Turgeis, 1-2, 21, 23. 

Waterford, 5, 9, 23, 25-6, 30. 
Wexford, 22, 23, 30. 

volva, 47. 

York, 5, 6, 23. 


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